Cutting air pollution around the world to the EU’s legal limit could prevent millions of people becoming depressed, a systematic review of global data has found.
The particle pollution analysed in the study is produced by burning fossil fuels in vehicles, homes and industry. As The Guardian reports, the researchers said the new evidence further strengthened calls to tackle what the World Health Organization calls the “silent public health emergency” of dirty air.
“We’ve shown that air pollution could be causing substantial harm to our mental health, making the case for cleaning up the air we breathe even more urgent,” said Isobel Braithwaite, at University College London (UCL), who led the research.
Meeting the EU limit could make a big difference, she said. “You could prevent about 15% of depression, assuming there is a causal relationship. It would be a very large impact, because depression is a very common disease and is increasing.”
More than 264 million people have depression, according to the WHO.