Rising air pollution can cause inflammation in the brain, warn health experts
Before Diwali, worsening air quality in Delhi-NCR raises concerns as experts warn of brain inflammation leading to anxiety, depression, and memory problems.
As the air around Delhi-NCR begins to deteriorate ahead of Diwali, health experts warn that the pollutants in the air may cause inflammation in the brain that can lead to anxiety, depression, and memory issues.
Ahead of the World Mental Health Day which falls on 10 October, doctors emphasised that pollution in any form is damaging to human well-being.
Dr Nand Kumar, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), told IANS that apart from air pollution, "environment changes marked by frequent and extreme weather events such as floods and storms affects mental health".
"People exposed to such climate changes may develop more serious mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or substance use disorders," he emphasised.
Air pollution is shortening lives in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, the most polluted city in the world, by 11.9 years, according to a new study.
As per the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) report for 2023 by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute, India is the world’s second most polluted country and Delhi is the most polluted city in the world.
The findings based on PM2.5 data for 2021 derived from satellites showed that pollution in India has increased from 56.2 micrograms per cubic metre air in 2020 to 58.7 micrograms per cubic metre air in 2021. This exceeds the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guideline of 5 micrograms per cubic metre air by more than 10 times.
The latest data from the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) showed that the air quality in the national capital is now in the “poor” quality zone, and days ahead are worrisome.
According to Dr Mrinmay Kumar Das, Senior Consultant, Department of Behavioural Sciences, Jaypee Hospital, "long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to neuroinflammation, which can affect the brain's functioning and has been associated with cognitive decline and an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases".
He mentioned that the high levels of air pollution can cause psychological stress which can lead to anxiety and depression over time. To deal with this, health experts suggested that maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress-reduction techniques like mindfulness or yoga, can help support mental resilience.