New Study Highlights Importance of Air Quality to Mental Health

By Jason Erickson

Naturally when most people think about the negative effects of air pollution, we think of the physical impact. However, a new study shines light on the potential for pollution to also affect our cognitive state and general sense of well-being.

China’s air quality has long been among the worst in the world, so its citizens have become unwitting test subjects to evaluate the various impacts of cumulative toxic exposure.  Aside from causing more than an estimated one million premature deaths annually, scientists claim to have uncovered a more insidious ancillary consequence within nearly 150 of China’s cities that they chose to study. My emphasis added:

In a paper published today in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, a research team led by Siqi Zheng, the Samuel Tak Lee Associate Professor in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and Center for Real Estate, and the Faculty Director of MIT China Future City Lab, reveals that higher levels of pollution are associated with a decrease in people’s happiness levels.


Research has previously shown that air pollution is damaging to health, cognitive performance, labor productivity, and educational outcomes. But air pollution also has a broader impact on people’s social lives and behavior, according to Zheng.


“Pollution also has an emotional cost,” Zheng says. “People are unhappy, and that means they may make irrational decisions.”

On polluted days, people have been shown to be more likely to engage in impulsive and risky behavior that they may later regret, possibly as a result of short-term depression and anxiety, according to Zheng.


To this end, the researchers used real-time data from social media to track how changing daily pollution levels impact people’s happiness in 144 Chinese cities.


The researchers used information on urban levels of ultrafine particulate matter — PM 2.5 concentration — from the daily air quality readings released by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. Airborne particulate matter has become the primary air pollutant in Chinese cities in recent years, and PM 2.5 particles, which measure less than 2.5 microns in diameter, are particularly dangerous to people’s lungs.

To measure daily happiness levels for each city, the team applied a machine-learning algorithm to analyze the 210 million geotagged tweets from China’s largest microblogging platform, Sina Weibo.

The tweets cover a period from March to November 2014. For each tweet, the researchers applied the machine-trained sentiment analysis algorithm to measure the sentiment of the post. They then calculated the median value for that city and day, the so-called expressed happiness index, ranging from 0 to 100, with 0 indicating a very negative mood, and 100 a very positive one.

Finally, the researchers merged this index with the daily PM2.5 concentration and weather data.

They found a significantly negative correlation between pollution and happiness levels. What’s more, women were more sensitive to higher pollution levels than men, as were those on higher incomes.


Through a creative use of social media data, the authors convincingly demonstrate a strong relationship between air quality and expressed happiness, a subjective measure of well-being, says Shanjun Li, a professor of environmental economics at Cornell University, who was not involved in the research.

“The study adds to the growing scientific knowledge on the social cost of air pollution by focusing on the cost borne by the ‘silent majority’ who do not typically show up in the studies based on morbidity and mortality outcomes,” Li says.

Source: MIT Review

This is an incredibly large data set that would indeed appear to be conclusive and is terrible news for China whose air pollution has been a continuing issue long after this 2014 data was collected.

This information is also not great news for the rest of the planet that suffers from other forms of air pollution that few people acknowledge. As Sofia Adamson recently highlighted for Waking Times, jet fuel is contributing heavily to poisoning the air, as each day more than 100,000 commercial flights take off around the globe.  Jet fuel legally contains a range of damaging elements; and, as the writer acknowledges, this is without even considering the more controversial theories surrounding chemtrails and geo-engineering.

Chemical and aerospace engineers have spent decades researching and developing highly efficient jet fuel. Ultimately, this has led to them adding aluminum, barium, strontium, and several other heavy metals to the fuel mixtures to help maximize efficiency and minimize cost.


Despite the known dangers of heavy metals like aluminum and barium, scientists have more than doubled the concentration of these toxic additives in jet fuel since 1996.


To make matters worse, many of the heavy metals used in jet fuel are added as nanoparticles – meaning the particle size is extremely small.

When heavy metals have a smaller particle size, this means they have a much easier time getting into your body and your bloodstream. With every contaminated breath we take, heavy metal nanoparticles are absorbed into your body and stored within your cells.

(Source: Waking Times)

It’s worth reiterating that the negative effects of exposure are cumulative, amplifying overall impact and potentially leading to a lengthening chain of physical and mental damage over time.

The article cited above contains valuable recommendations for chelation to detox the body of heavy metals, but it appears that we also would do well to boost our regimen of protective ingredients into our diet. Some of the dietary ingredients include flaxseed, olive oil, avocados and tomatoes, as well as other staples from the Mediterranean Diet containing a high concentration of antioxidants that can protect the body and brain from degenerative disease.  This also includes medicinal mushrooms.

However, this latest study reveals that we would also do well to protect our minds from any additional toxic input above and beyond these purely physical considerations.

Jason Erickson writes for This article (New Study Highlights Importance of Air Quality to Mental Health) may be republished in part or in full with author attribution and source link.

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