Bad air leads to depression and unhappiness, suggests study

Bad air leads to depression and unhappiness, suggests study

Depression is one of the fastest growing mental health issues in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression across the globe. In the United States alone, approximately 16.1 million adults aged 18 or older had at least one major depressive episode in 2015 according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Depression is a complex condition, which is often triggered by a number of factors, such as, medications, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, the death of a loved one and substance abuse, among others. However, a recent research conducted by the Yale School of Public Health, and published in the April 2017 edition of the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, has found that an increase in air pollution can also lead to higher levels of depression and unhappiness.

The study was conducted by Xi Chen, Ph.D., assistant professor and lead author, along with Xiaobo Zhang, chair and professor of economics, and Ph.D. candidate, Xin Zhang, of the National School of Development at Peking University in China.

Worsening air quality reduces happiness

The study shares multiple observations of the researchers, who suggest that the increase in China’s levels of air pollution has led to approximately 22.5 percent decline in happiness since 2007. Individuals who are more concerned about the environment, who have low incomes, who work outdoors or whose children are young were found to be more affected by air pollution.

This study has been successful in offering proof that air pollution can lead to the development of symptoms linked with depression, and that it has high psychological costs, which are often underestimated. The deteriorating air quality was found to be the main reason causing reduced happiness even amidst rapid economic growth. It was also found that though air pollution had a major impact on hedonistic happiness it caused little change to the measures of life satisfaction.

Longitudinal survey helped in capturing reliable data

A national longitudinal survey was conducted to compare happiness in China, with weather and air quality captured at the same moments when the sample was surveyed. The environmental data used during the study included the level of air pollutants, especially sulfur dioxide, particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide, precipitation, air temperature and geographical location in which the interviews were conducted. Using longitudinal data helped in capturing the effect of changes in air quality on the same set of people over time, strengthening the link between the two.

Another factor that contributed to the success of the study was the methods used by the researchers. These methods made it possible to distinguish between self-indulgent happiness, happiness that varied in different moments and evaluative happiness, which is associated with overall life satisfaction.

Depression can be treated

According to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), in 2015, U.S. had emitted approximately 82 million tons of pollutants in the air. It is important to note that while these emissions mostly contribute to the degradation of the ozone layer, acid deposition and weakening visibility, they also contribute majorly to the overall quality of air, resulting in a number of health problems including depression.

Though depression can be debilitating, it is treatable. Therapy, medications and bringing in lifestyle changes can help one walk on the road to recovery.

If you know somebody who is dealing with depression and is seeking information about some of the best depression treatment centers in California, Sovereign Health can help. Connect with our representatives available at our 24/7 helpline number 866-973-7164 to know more about the world-class facilities offering treatment for depression and other mental health issues. You may also chat online with our medical experts for the right assistance about mental health centers in California.

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