Air pollution is dangerous and it impacts overall health at different levels. A new study published in the journal Developmental Psychology reveals that even “safe” levels of ozone air pollution may increase the risk of depression in teenagers. The findings are based on the basis of data accumulated by the experts.
They studied mental health data from 213 adolescents, ages 9-13, in the San Francisco Bay area and compared it with air quality data for their home addresses. The entire exercise lasted for four years.
Key findings of the study
- Those who lived in areas with relatively higher ozone levels had significant increases in symptoms of depression over time
- The link between ozone pollution and depression symptoms such as chronic sadness or hopelessness, concentration problems, sleep disturbances and thoughts about suicide were similar irrespective of sex, age, race, or household income
- Ozone and other types of air pollution can contribute to high levels of inflammation in the body, which has been linked to depression.
- Adolescents may be especially sensitive because they spend more time outdoors
How is ozone created?
Ozone is created when various pollutants from vehicle exhaust, power plants and other sources react to sunlight. Higher ozone levels have been connected to various physical conditions, including asthma, respiratory viruses and premature death from respiratory causes.
How can you help?
- Start by finding a quiet, private time to have a conversation. It may help to approach the subject with just one parent to avoid confrontation.
- When they do start to open up, use active listening to help them feel heard. Try not to let the moment pass.
- While your compassion and guidance can make a big difference for your child, professional support is typically the best way to improve symptoms.
- Encouraging your teen to stay active and involved in household responsibilities can help them continue to feel supported. Still, understand there may be times when they don’t feel up to doing much.
- Depression shouldn’t be an excuse for misbehavior, but it’s important to separate the effects of depression from actual wrongdoing. Taking away their phone, or main method of interacting with friends, might actually make things worse.
- It’s important you know about any side effects of treatment or recurring distressing thoughts. Otherwise, remind them you’re there whenever they feel ready to talk, and give them space to share in their own time.
Just to recap – Don’t forget to emphasize that you’re on their side and will do whatever it takes to get them support. They might shrug you off, but actually they’re listening to you carefully and your words can make a difference.