Teens living in dirty air 70% more likely to have symptoms such as paranoia, study finds
'Young people living with higher levels of air pollution are significantly more likely to have psychotic experiences, according to the first study of the issue.
Researchers analysed the experiences of more than 2,000 17-year-olds across England and Wales and found that those in places with higher levels of nitrogen oxides had a 70% higher chance of symptoms such as hearing voices or intense paranoia.
People growing up in cities were already known to have more psychotic experiences than those outside urban areas and the new work suggests toxic air is one potential reason. But the type of study done cannot prove a causal link, and other factors such as noise could be important.
Psychotic experiences are much more common in adolescents than in adults, but those having these symptoms when young are more likely to develop serious mental illnesses later. With more people around the world living in cities every year, scientists are particularly keen to uncover the reasons for mental ill health in urban centres.
The study took into account other potential causes of psychotic experiences, such as smoking, alcohol and cannabis use, family income and psychiatric history, and measures of neighbourhood deprivation. “[Nitrogen oxides] explained about 60% of the association between urban living and psychotic experiences,” said Joanne Newbury at King’s College London, who led the research. Other factors may include genetic susceptibility and experience of crime.
Nitrogen oxides come largely from diesel vehicles and are at illegal levels in most British towns and cities, with the government having lost three times in the high court over its failure to cut pollution quickly. Research is linking air pollution with an increasing range of ill health, including reduced intelligence, dementia and depression, while other work has revealed air pollution can reach the brain.'
Read more: Air pollution linked to psychotic experiences in young people