Exposure to small particulate matter is associated with an increased risk of anxiety, a large observational study suggests.
Using data from more than 70,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study the researchers found exposure to fine particles (<2.5 μm in diameter) was tied to increasing anxiety levels.
The more recent the exposure the higher the level of anxiety tended to be, according to the research published in the BMJ.
However the researchers found no link between anxiety levels and larger air pollution particles (PM 2.5 to 10 μm in diameter).
While their findings were consistent with the oxidative stress/inflammatory mechanistic hypothesis, their data did not support the hypothesis that particles promote anxiety through induction or aggravation of medical conditions, the authors said.
In a linked editorial Michael Brauer from the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia in Canada said the research — along with another study published in the same journal linking pollution to an increased risk of stroke — confirmed the urgent need to manage air pollution globally.
“…as a cause of ill health and offer the promise that reducing pollution could be a cost effective way to reduce the large burden of disease from both stroke and poor mental health,” he said.