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Study: Air pollution affects young people's psychiatric health

A growing body of research suggests environmental pollution has a significant influence on mental health.

By Brooks Hays
Study: Air pollution affects young people's psychiatric health
New study links air pollution with a higher risk of psychiatric diagnosis. Photo by Christopher Waters/Shutterstock

UMEå, Sweden, June 8 (UPI) -- Researchers in Sweden have identified a link between air pollution and psychiatric health. Young people living in neighborhoods with poorer air quality are more likely to be prescribed medications for psychiatric diagnoses.

Health data in Sweden allows scientists to analyze the entire population for frequency of diagnoses and related prescriptions. Researchers at Umeå University looked at the health data for the entire population of people under the age of 18 in several Swedish counties.

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Their area of research encompassed rural regions as well as the three largest cities in Sweden, and studied populations included wide variety of socioeconomic characteristics.

After accounting for demographics and socioeconomic factors, researchers found that a 10 microgram per cubic meter increase in nitrogen dioxide concentrations accounted for a 9 percent uptick in prescriptions written for psychiatric diagnoses.

Researchers published their findings in the British Medical Journal.

"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," study leader Anna Oudin said in a news release.

A growing body of research suggests environmental pollution has a significant influence on mental health. A number of studies have linked air pollution with autism rates, as well as identified correlations between smog and anxiety.

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