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Exposure to Pollution May Up Risk for Psychiatric Disorders

Higher rates of bipolar disorder, major depression linked to poor air quality in U.S., Denmark cohorts

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TUESDAY, Aug. 20, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Environmental pollution appears to be associated with an increased risk for psychiatric disorders, especially bipolar disorder and major depression, according to a report published online Aug. 20 in PLOS Biology.

Atif Khan, Ph.D., from the University of Chicago, and colleagues examined the correlation between environmental pollution and risk for neuropsychiatric disorders in exploratory analyses of two large data sets: 151 million unique individuals from a U.S. insurance claims database and 1.4 million unique individuals from the Danish national treatment registers. Six conditions (four psychiatric and two neurological) were studied for the U.S. cohort, and four were studied for the Denmark cohort.

The researchers found that poor air quality appears to be associated with higher rates of bipolar disorder and major depression in both the United States and Denmark. In the Denmark population, the rate of all four psychiatric disorders (bipolar disorder, major depression, schizophrenia, and personality disorder) was higher with increasing levels of air pollution exposure in childhood.

"Growing evidence from human, animal, and in vitro studies demonstrates that airborne pollutants target the brain and are implicated in neurological and psychiatric disorders etiology," the authors write. "The patterns uncovered in our data underline the potential importance of the physical milieu to bipolar disorder and depression research."

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