Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How Depressing is Traffic-Related Air Pollution for the Elderly?

Dragging the weight of the old age
Dragging the weight of the old age (Photo credit: Giulio Magnifico)
Ambient Air Pollution and Depressive Symptoms in Older Adults: Results from the MOBILIZE Boston Study(26 page pdf, Yi Wang, Melissa N. Eliot, Petros Koutrakis, Alexandros Gryparis, Joel D. Schwartz, Brent A. Coull, Murray A. Mittleman, William P. Milberg, Lewis A. Lipsitz, and Gregory A. Wellenius, Environmental Heralth Perspectives, Mar. 7, 2014) 

Today we review a study that had surprising results for older people in reasonably good health who live near traffic and air pollution in a large American city (Boston). Despite much environmental health research that this exposure causes neurological and cardiovascular diseases, there was no evidence from this study that air pollution on a short or long term bases causes depression. By contrast, it is worth noting that those most likely to suffer depression and living near traffic were younger females. 

 Key Quotes: 

“air pollution can cause systemic inflammation, neuroinflammation, oxidative stress, cerebrovascular damage, and neurodegenerative pathology…. and inflammation and vascular disease contribute to the risk of, or exacerbate, specific types of depression” 

“fluctuations in ambient levels of particles with aerodynamic diameter less than 10 μm (PM10), nitrogen dioxide, and ozone have been associated with more severe depressive symptoms among older adult participants…and a higher rate of emergency department visits for depression and attempted suicide” 

“participants living 100-250 m from a major roadway had the lowest mean age, were most likely to be female, were the least likely to be non-Hispanic white and have diabetes or hypertension, and were most likely to report use of antidepressant medication” 

 “we found no evidence suggestive of a positive association between the presence of depressive symptoms and markers of long-term exposure to traffic pollution. In addition, short-term changes in levels of ambient air pollutants were also not associated with the presence of depressive symptoms. ”
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