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Air pollution increases the risk of psychosis in adolescents
Young people living in regions with high levels of air pollution are significantly more likely to suffer from psychotic disorders. It is known that people who grew up in cities are more likely to experience mental disorders than those living in the countryside, and this scientific work suggests that polluted air is one of the possible causes.
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Young people living in regions with high levels of air pollution are significantly more likely to suffer from psychotic disorders. This is evidenced by a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry.
Psychotic disorders are disorders in which mental reactions grossly contradict reality. Their symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, and so on. Young people are more likely to have acute episodes of these disorders lasting from a few hours to a month.
Scientists analyzed data from more than two thousand 17-year-olds from England and Wales and found that those living in areas with higher nitrogen oxides were 70% more likely to develop symptoms such as voices in their heads or severe paranoia.
It is known that people who grew up in cities experience more mental disorders than those living in the countryside, and this scientific work suggests that polluted air is one of the possible causes.
Episodes of psychotic disorders are much more common in adolescents than in adults, but those who develop these symptoms at a young age are more likely to develop serious mental illness later on.
The study looked at other potential causes, such as smoking, alcohol and marijuana use, family income and family history of mental health problems, and socialization. "[Nitric oxides] explained about 60% of the link between urban life and psychotic disorders," says study author Joanne Newbury of King's College London. Other factors, in her opinion, may also be genetic susceptibility and criminal history.
Vehicles are the main source of nitrogen oxides in the air. Various studies have linked air pollution to a range of health problems, including decreased intelligence, dementia, and depression. Some studies have also suggested direct effects of pollution on the brain, especially the brains of children and young adults.
The new study pooled data on air pollution and psychotic symptoms reported by adolescents themselves. A third of them live in the city, a fifth in the countryside, and the rest in the suburbs. Overall, 30% of young adults reported at least one episode of psychotic disorder, which is considered normal for adolescents. But they were significantly more common among adolescents living in some of the country's most polluted areas.
“In areas with high [nitric oxide] levels, 12 adolescents who reported psychotic episodes out of 20 did not. In low-incidence areas, only seven adolescents reported such symptoms in every 20 who did not,”Newbury said.
Scientists also found an association with fine particulate pollution, with psychotic disorders 45% more common among the most exposed adolescents.