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Air Pollution Linked to Young People’s Psychiatric Health

A new study has found a link between dispensed medication for psychiatric diagnosis for people under the age of 18 and air pollution concentrations.

For their study, researchers at Umeå University in Sweden examined the correlation between exposure to air pollution in residential areas and childrens’ and adolescents’ psychiatric health.

They did this by looking at register-based data, where dispensed medications of all Swedes are registered, together with Swedish National Register data of air pollution concentrations.

The entire population under 18 in the Swedish counties of Stockholm, Västra Götaland, Skåne and Västerbotten were studied.

Stockholm, Västra Götaland, and Skåne counties are located in the more densely populated parts in the south and contain the three largest cities in Sweden, while Västerbotten County lies in the north of Sweden. The four counties are different not just in terms of geographic location, size, and population density, but also with respect to migration, socioeconomic characteristics, urbanization, and air pollution concentrations, researchers detail.

The study’s findings show that air pollution increased the risk of having dispensed medication for at least one psychiatric diagnosis for children and adolescents.

In fact, the risk increased nine percent with a 10 microgram per cubic meter increased concentration of nitrogen dioxide, even after socioeconomic and demographic factors were taken into account, according to the researchers.

“The results can mean that a decreased concentration of air pollution, first and foremost traffic-related air pollution, may reduce psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents,” said Anna Oudin, Ph.D., a Umeå University researcher in the Unit for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, who led the research.

The study was published in the journal BMJ Open.

Source: Umeå University

PHOTO: Anna Oudin, researcher at the Unit for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Umeå University, led the study. Credit: Daniel Oudin Åström.

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