According to fitness experts, air pollution can not only affect respiratory issues but it can also gravely affect one’s mental health. As high pollution levels lead to toxic air quality in several North Indian cities including the national capital New Delhi, poor AQI is beginning to cause irreversible health damage.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Jyoti Kapoor, Senior Psychiatrist and Founder of Manasthali, insisted, “Anything that impacts physical health also impacts mental health. With pollution rising in the environment, a number of studies have been conducted which show direct and indirect impact of pollutants on mental well-being. The stress of physical issues like respiratory problems, sleep disturbances, the haze in air cutting of light which impacts neurotransmitters secretion in brain and direct biological impact of pollutants on nervous system are some of the underlying pathogenesis. This has shown to increase incidence of anxiety, depression and personality disorders along with lowered stress tolerance.”
Dr Shuchin Bajaj, Founder and Director of Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, revealed, “Toxic air pollutants cause harm to the respiratory organs as well as affect mental health by increasing anxiety and depression. Air pollution refers to any physical, chemical, or biological change in the air that may be contaminated due to harmful gases, dust and smoke which affects plants, animals and humans drastically, according to the World Health Organisation. These air pollutants can cause serious neurocognitive effects—ranging from behavioral variations to neurodegenerative disorders—that ultimately can have devastating effects on mental health. Pollution particles can cross from the lung to the blood and, in some cases, travel up the axon of the olfactory nerve into the brain.”
Elaborating upon the same, Dr Sankalp Surya Mohan, Senior Consultant, Neurology at Paras Hospitals in Gurugram, said, “High amounts of air pollution can lead to tissue and blood vessel inflammation, which can have detrimental psychological impacts and even send some individuals into despair or make them impulsive. Anxiety and modifications in mood, cognition, and behaviour are examples of the psychiatric symptoms that can result from the psychological and toxic impacts of air pollution. Air pollutants are associated with an increase in psychiatric hospitalizations, emergency calls and behavioural changes as well as a decline in psychological wellbeing.”
Highlighting that numerous hazardous contaminants obstruct the nervous system’s ability to grow and operate normally as an adult, he said, “Even while symptoms are frequently subtle or slow to appear, they can serve as a more accurate predictor of hazardous consequences than statistics on death or cancer rates. Psychological health may be indirectly impacted by other physiological symptoms of air pollution, such as asthma. Multiple chemical sensitivity and the sick building syndrome are mental and toxicologic diseases, respectively to mitigate the effects of environmental stress.”
The health expert explained, “Due to their ease of entry into the bloodstream and ability to readily pass through the body to the brain, particles equal to or less than 2.5 microns in diameter offer an extremely significant danger. Carbon Monoxide, Sulphur Oxides (SOx), and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), in addition to PM 2.5 and below, can irritate blood vessels and result in neuro-inflammation by rupturing the blood-brain barrier, a thin, sensitive membrane that shields the brain from toxins. Anxiety, sadness, Impulsive Control Disorder (ICD), Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder can all be brought on by toxic compounds in the brain. If possible, stay indoors. While you go outside, wear a mask. Avoid congested areas by taking the public transit instead.