Air pollution is a major problem in many parts of the world, including Australia. While, we often think about the physical health effects of air pollution, such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, recent research has shown that air pollution can also have an impact on mental health, including depression.
What are its physical effects?
According to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2018, air pollution is responsible for approximately 3,000 premature deaths in Australia each year. This figure highlights the urgent need for action to address this issue. In addition, a study conducted on impact of traffic pollution by scientist at Melbourne university, found that, it claims more than 11,000 Australian lives each year. The study found that air pollution can have a range of health impacts, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as an increased risk of stroke and cancer. These health impacts are particularly concerning for vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions.
Australia in general has good air quality compared to some countries. However, what worries scientist are hotspots within Australia. The Australian conservation foundation has compiled a list 10 most polluted suburbs in Australia. It found 6 suburbs were situated near a working coal plant. Which could attribute to major air pollution.
How does it affect mental health?
While, this is a new area of research, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that air pollution can have an impact on our mental wellbeing. As per one study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in 2019. The study found exposure to air pollution results in increased risk of depression and anxiety amongst older people in China. The study suggested that this might be due to the impact of air pollution on the brain, including oxidative stress and inflammation.
Moreover, according another study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2019. The study found that exposure to air pollution leads to increased risk of cognitive decline. also found it leads to dementia in older women in the United States. The study also suggested, this could be due to the impact of air pollution on brain function. Which includes inflammation and damage to brain cells.
How to tackle the issue?
There are various measures that can be taken at both the individual and government level.
At the individual level, we can take steps to reduce our own exposure to air pollution. This may include:
- Increasing use of public transportation
- Reducing energy consumption
- Choosing low-emission vehicles
In contrast, at the government level, there is a need for strong policies to address air pollution. This may include measures such as:
- Increasing investments in renewable energy
- Implementing strict emissions standards for industries
- Promoting the use of public transportation and active modes of transport such as walking and cycling.
In addition, there is a need for further research to better understand the impact of air pollution on our health. Both physical and mental. This research can help to inform policy decisions. It will ensure that we are taking the necessary steps to protect our health and wellbeing.
Hence, air pollution is a serious problem in Australia and globally, and its impact on our health, both physical and mental, cannot be ignored. By taking action at both the individual and government level, we can work towards reducing our exposure to air pollution and protecting our health and wellbeing for generations to come.