How Air Pollution Affects Your Mood

Air pollution affects nearly every organ in our body, but did you know air pollution affects your mood too? Research shows direct correlations between air pollution and a bad mood.

PM2.5 Air Pollution Worsens Mood

Researchers at MIT studied how air pollution affects mood across 144 cities in China. Using sentiment analysis of social media, the researchers found a direct link between higher PM2.5 levels and a worsening mood.

If you look closely, the 20 worst mood sentiment points were all in places with PM2.5 concentrations averaging over 50 micrograms.

Factors Affecting Our Sensitivity to Air Pollution

The study discovered a few factors that increased the effect air pollution had on mood. One factor was the day of the week, with air pollution having the greatest effect on the weekend. I suspect this could be due to people going out more on the weekend and having more time to think about the air pollution. The higher the negative number below, the higher the sensitivity to air polution

PM2.5 air pollution worsens mood
Source: “Air Pollution and Happiness in China”

Air pollution also had a larger effect on mood during holidays.

Females were also more likely to have negative moods due to air pollution compared to males.

Finally, the study showed those living in the cleanest or dirtiest cities are most responsive to air pollution. In addition, those with higher incomes were affected by air pollution more. The study concludes this is because these groups of people are more aware of the negative consequences of air pollution.

Growing Link Between Air Pollution and Depression

Research shows air pollution can even significantly increase the risk of more serious mental health issues such as depression and schizophrenia.

  • Study found every 10 microgram increase of NO2 doubled depression risk.
  • Study found every 18 microgram increase in PM2.5 increase depression risk by 6.67% in China.
  • 12-year study found PM2.5 significantly increased psychological stress
PM2.5 air pollution worsens mood

How Does Air Pollution Affect Our Brain and Mood?

Although we don’t know all the specifics about how PM2.5 causes mental illnesses, there is a lot we do know. We know PM2.5 particles get into our bloodstream causing havoc in organs all over our body. PM2.5 enters your brain and increases inflammation and oxidative stress. Studies suggest this can affect mood and lead to depression. In addition, the psychological effects of living with air pollution and smog may also explain some of the negative effects air pollution has on our mood.


How I Protect Myself

PM2.5 is everywhere, but fortunately, there are some simple tools to reduce the amount of PM2.5 you breathe in by 95%+. At home, I use a HEPA air purifier which ensures I breathe almost no PM2.5 at the house.

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