Air pollution causes depression and bipolar disorder. Scientific explanation

Air pollution causes depression and bipolar disorder. Scientific explanation

There is nothing like the warmth of the sun on your face, hearing the wind whisper through the trees or the gurgling of the water. In fact, you can't help but feel a little more relaxed. Walking barefoot on the slightly damp grass and taking a deep breath of fresh air makes you feel in the moment. It also helps you take life's troubles away for a little breather away from city pollution. Many of us have read about the research on the benefits of being outdoors for dealing with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit disorders.

However, what happens when that outside air is in a highly polluting area? Could the polluted air be lending a not-so-helpful hand to your mood and emotional stability? Scientists explain how air pollution can cause bipolar disorder and depression.


While there are a variety of treatments for many of the symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder, they are not a cure for the subtle complexity of how these mental illnesses can affect people.

The medical community links depression and bipolar disorder to the following:

  • humor changes
  • intense sadness lack of motivation
  • fatigue
  • hyperactivity / manic episodes
  • erratic sleep patterns
  • changes in appetite or eating habits
  • decreased cognitive function related to memory, concentration and focus.

Other subtle symptoms include the following:

  • effects on self-esteem
  • decreased self-image
  • Lack of self confidence
  • inability to handle stress
  • "Overwhelmed brain"
  • inconsistent energy levels

These symptoms require a more personalized approach. The main suggested method of treating these symptoms is therapy with a medical professional.

In addition to therapy, scientists and therapists agree that exposure to nature has been shown to have significant mental health benefits. It can be as simple as walking through a nearby park, sitting outside enjoying the sunshine and cool breeze, or getting involved in an outdoor sport like basketball, soccer, or swimming.


One such study by Stanford scientists published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science showed that a 90-minute walk in a green area reduced rumination symptoms and neural activity in one area of ​​the brain, affecting many with mental illness. Rumination is the act of "negative self-talk" that many people with depression or bipolar disorder tend to do. People who walked for 90 minutes in an urban setting reported no such thought changes or showed changes in the area of ​​their brain most affected by mental illness.

While many studies show that physical activity outdoors produces the best results for overall improvement in mental and physical health, simply looking at a picture of nature can still have positive effects on your brain and mood.

One such study by scientists at Texas A&M University and the University of Delaware Department of Psychology demonstrated this in an article published in Science Direct. They played a high-stress movie for 120 volunteers. They then followed the film by showing 1 of 6 different scenes of nature or the city through a color video with sound. They then screened the volunteers for various stress-related psychosomatic symptoms. These factors include high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and muscle stiffness.


Science shows that individuals exposed to more scenic images and sounds of nature recovered from the aforementioned film faster than those who viewed more urban photos. The study also showed that more people were more mentally engaged in viewing images of nature than urban views.

There are thousands of studies related to the health benefits of the outdoors. You may prefer grounding, the Japanese custom of bathing in the forest, or just looking out the window at a beautiful tree. In any case, nature has positive effects on your physical and mental well-being.

It is becoming such a scientifically accepted fact that cities are being rebuilt to allow for more green areas, nature trails, and running water sources. Ongoing studies are being conducted to determine what specific trees, types of water sources, plants, flowers, etc. elicit the most positive response.


Recreating urban areas to make room for more trees, parks, and walking areas is a wonderful gift to all of your residents to improve their health. However, scientists have found that air pollution could also have a negative impact on mental health.

We are all aware that air pollution is deadly, but do you know how harmful it is?

According to W.H.O (World Health Organization), there are:

  • 2 million deaths related to outdoor air pollution
  • 8 million deaths caused by indoor cooking on dirty stoves or from used fuels.
  • 91% of the world has air pollution levels higher than the recommended amount

Air pollution contributes to:

  • 29% of deaths from lung cancer
  • 24% of deaths from stroke
  • 25% of deaths from heart disease
  • 43% of deaths from lung disease

Since air pollution is such a deadly contributor to our physical health, it was only a matter of time before science began to analyze its effects on our brain, neurological system, and our mental health.


An article from the American Psychological Association, Smog in our Brains, presents some studies, carried out by various scientists, that demonstrate the potential of air pollution creating a decrease in our cognitive capacity and mental health:


Women between the ages of 71 and 80 who were exposed to higher levels of pollution showed a greater reduction in cognitive ability.


Men who had been exposed to black carbon, or soot, while driving in continuous traffic, showed a decline in cognitive ability equivalent to aging in two years.


Young people who were tracked from birth to the age of ten exposed to black carbon fared worse on memory, verbal and non-verbal intelligence tests.


The researchers studied the brains of dogs raised in Mexico City, a notoriously polluted city, which showed inflammation and significant markers of Alzheimer's-like brain damage. Then the same scientists examined 55 children raised in Mexico City and compared them to a less polluted city. They also showed neuroinflammation and damage to the frontal cortex of the brain. Inflammation in the brain can lead to Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease and other disorders of the central nervous system. In addition, these children performed poorly on memory, cognition, and intelligence.

Mice exposed to Beijing pollution levels for 10 months also showed alarming symptoms. They took longer to complete a maze and made more mistakes. In addition, they showed depressive symptoms, such as not liking to swim so much and not drinking sugar water as often; both characteristically enjoyed previously. When they are given antidepressants, their behavior is reversed.

They also examined their brains. Therefore, they found that there were changes in the nerve cells of the hippocampus and fewer spines in the neurons in the area. These spines are what create connections with other nerves. Without that connection, your memory malfunctions.


Another study showed that people who lived in highly polluted areas tended to experience more depression and anxiety than people with cleaner air.

Video: Bipolar Disorder: Preventing Relapse - Dr Patrick McKeon (July 2021).