The Connection Between Air Pollution & Mental Health: Impacts & Tips

  • postauthorOnsurity Editorial
  • postdateNovember 27, 2023
  • postreadtime3 min read
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India is grappling with a growing environmental concern – air pollution. The once-clear skies are now shrouded in a haze of pollutants. While there is extensive evidence linking air pollution exposure to physical health, not much is known about its impact on mental health. While it is often overlooked, the effects of poor AQI on mental health are significant.

Rising AQI levels: A cause of concern

As air pollution continues its upward trajectory, AQI (Air Quality Index), is a concern we have encountered frequently in recent months. The AQI serves as a measure to quantify the current state of air cleanliness or pollution, shedding light on potential health implications. Since past few months, major cities across the northern states of India have been battling the problem of pollution, with toxic haze blanketing the cities.

How does the haze outside contribute to the mental fog within? 

Studies suggest a connection between prolonged exposure to air pollution and cognitive decline. Memory, attention, and decision-making – all seemingly affected by the quality of the air we breathe.

1. Increased risk of mental health disorders:

Higher levels of air pollution, particularly fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), have been linked to the risk of mental health disorders, including conditions such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

2. Cognitive impairment:

Long-term exposure to air pollution has been linked to an increased risk of neurodegenerative disorders. This includes higher incidence of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

3. Impact on children’s mental health:

Children exposed to higher levels of air pollution may be more susceptible to developmental issues, including behavioral problems and cognitive deficits.

4. Inflammation:

Air pollution triggers inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation has been implicated in various mental health disorders. Research indicates that the inflammatory response triggered by exposure to pollutants may play a role in the development or worsening of mental health conditions.

Also, Read: How To Foster Your Mental Wellness?

Tips on maintaining good mental health balance despite poor AQI

1. Monitor AQI levels:

Monitor the local AQI) regularly to be aware of pollution levels in your area. Plan outdoor activities on days when the air quality is better.

2. Create a clean indoor environment: 

  • Use air purifiers with HEPA filters to reduce indoor pollution.
  • Keep windows and doors closed during times of high outdoor pollution.
  • Ensure good ventilation to allow fresh air circulation when outdoor air quality improves.

3. Practice mindfulness and stress reduction: 

  • Engage in mindfulness activities such as meditation or deep breathing exercises to manage stress caused by environmental concerns.
  • Consider joining local community groups focused on environmental issues to connect with others who share similar concerns.

4. Wear protective gear:

When outdoor air quality is poor, consider wearing masks designed to filter out pollutants. N95 masks can be effective in reducing exposure to particulate matter.

5. Seek professional support: 

If environmental concerns are impacting your mental health, consider seeking support from a mental health professional who can provide coping strategies and support.

6. Stay hydrated and maintain a healthy diet: 

  • Drink plenty of water to help flush out toxins from the body.
  • Consume a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, which can help mitigate the impact of environmental stressors.

7. Undergo preventative health check-ups: 

A comprehensive assessment of health and regular screenings can unveil potential health concerns caused or exacerbated by air pollution, allowing for early intervention. From lung function tests to cardiovascular screenings, these check-ups provide insights, which help take proactive measures.

With Onsurity healthcare membership, you can undergo preventative health check- ups at no cost. Additionally, you can also avail tele consultation to seek advice from a healthcare provider instead of self-medication, which can lead to potential risks.

From adopting cleaner practices to supporting initiatives for better air quality, every endeavour counts in building a future where we breathe easier and think clearer. Proactivity is key, whether it’s through routine health check-ups, commitment to a healthy lifestyle, or taking necessary steps – all aimed at safeguarding mental health from the adverse effects of air pollution.


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