Impact of air pollution and the climate crisis on mental health

Climate crisis and air pollution have repercussions both on environment and on our health

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Impact of air pollution and the climate crisis on mental health
© Christopher Furlong / Staff Getty Images

The climate crisis and air pollution have serious repercussions both on biomes and the environment, but also on our health. And we're not just talking about physical health, but also mental health, as revealed by the following research.

In fact, the study Impact of air pollution and climate change on mental health outcomes: an umbrella review of global evidence, published on the World psychiatry: official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), explained:

"The impact of air pollution and climate change on mental health has recently raised strong concerns. However, a comprehensive overview analyzing the existing evidence while addressing relevant biases is lacking. This umbrella review systematically searched the PubMed/Medline, Scopus and PsycINFO databases (up to June 26, 2023) for any systematic review with meta-analysis investigating the association of air pollution or climate change with mental health outcomes We used the R metaumbrella package to calculate and stratify the credibility of the evidence according to criteria that address several biases, complemented by sensitivity analyses. We included 32 systematic reviews with meta-analysis that examined 284 individual studies and 237 associations of exposures to air pollution or climate change hazards and mental health outcomes Mental health outcomes in most associations involved mental disorders, followed by suicidal behavior, access to mental health care services, mental disorders-related symptomatology, and multiple categories together.

Climate Crisis
Climate Crisis© Christopher Furlong / Staff Getty Images
 

Twelve associations (5.0%) achieved convincing or highly suggestive evidence. Regarding exposures to air pollution, there was convincing evidence for the association between long-term exposure to solvents and a higher incidence of dementia or cognitive impairment, and highly suggestive evidence for the association between long-term exposure to some pollutants and higher risk for cognitive disorders. There was also highly suggestive evidence for the association between exposure to airborne particulate matter with diameter ≤10 μm (PM10) during the second trimester of pregnancy and the incidence of post-partum depression; and for the association between short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide (SO2) and schizophrenia relapse.

Regarding climate change hazards, there was highly suggestive evidence for the association between short-term exposure to increased temperature and suicide- or mental disorders-related mortality, suicidal behavior, and hospital access due to suicidal behavior or mental disorders or mental disorders only. There was also highly suggestive evidence for the association between short-term exposure to increased apparent temperature and suicidal behavior. Finally, there was highly suggestive evidence for the association between the temporal proximity of cyclone exposure and severity of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Although most of the above associations were small in magnitude, they extend to the entire world population, and are therefore likely to have a substantial impact. This umbrella review classifies and quantifies for the first time the global negative impacts that air pollution and climate change can exert on mental health, identifying evidence-based targets that can inform future research and population health actions."