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Children growing up in dirty air have four times higher risk of developing depression, suggests study
Feb 15 2019

Children growing up in dirty air have four times higher risk of developing depression, suggests study

Mental Health

The quality of air one lives in has a significant impact on one’s health and well-being, especially on a child whose body and brain are still developing. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that nearly 93 percent of all children across the globe inhabit environments with air pollution levels higher than the accepted guidelines.  While the effect of air pollution on the physical health of children is well documented, a recent research has linked growing up in polluted air to the risk of developing depression later in children.

According to the research, published in the journal Psychiatry Research in February 2019, teens who inhabited areas with higher levels of air pollution during childhood were more vulnerable to developing major depression by the age of 18 years. The findings revealed that young people who inhaled air contaminated with common pollutants at age 12 had three to four times higher risk of developing depression by the time they turned 18. These findings were significant as 75 percent of mental health issues appear during adolescence or childhood.

Pollutants penetrate brain causing inflammation

Lead author Helen Fisher provided an explanation for the association between depression and air pollution. She said that pollutant particles were small enough to penetrate the brain and cause inflammation, leading to the development of depressive symptoms. The researchers controlled for other related contributing factors, like level of family income, a family history of mental illness, bullying, and smoking habits, that could lead to impaired mental health.

Children and adolescents, in particular, had a relatively higher risk of developing depression from these pollutants due to hormonal changes and a rapidly developing brain. In addition, their exposure to other stressful events such as exams, jobs, and attempts at developing a relationship with the world further aggravated their risk of exhibiting depressive symptoms.

Experts feel that the research can be an important marker to address the need of controlling air pollution to mitigate its role in affecting the mental health of children. Moreover, it is less difficult to tackle air pollution than dealing with other factors contributing to compromised mental health.

Teen mental health in America

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), nearly 20 percent adolescents in the United States are struggling with a diagnosable mental disorder, with about one-third of them exhibiting depressive symptoms.

Indicative signs of these issues are varied for different individuals. However, some of the most common symptoms include persistent irritability, major changes in appetite or sleep, anger and social withdrawal. Children suffering from behavioral problems have an increased risk of unsuccessful relationships, impaired school performance, and suicidal ideation. Unfortunately, an ongoing stigma surrounding mental disorders still prevents many adolescents and their families from seeking help.

Dealing with teen depression

There is a growing need to dedicate sincere efforts to make the youth aware about behavioral health problems, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, etc. Most people with mental health problems can recover. While recovery is a gradual process, seeking professional help from a mental health treatment center is the first step.

Effective treatments, especially if they begin immediately after the symptoms appear, can help minimize the impact of depression on the life of adolescents. Generally, clinicians recommend medication, behavioral treatment (such as cognitive behavioral therapy) or a combination of both to treat mental disorders. Patients are also advised to join self-help groups to cope with their problems and recover faster.

People who have friends or peers struggling with depression or any other mental illnesses should encourage them to seek professional medical assistance. ADEONA Healthcare offers effective treatment strategies and a comfortable environment to help teens aged 12-17 recover faster. To know more about our depression treatment, call our 24/7 helpline (888) 997-3966 and speak with a representative from the admissions team. You can also chat online for further assistance.