Teenagers who live in cities are more likely to develop mental illness

Embargoed to 2230 Tuesday February 05 File photo dated 10/04/15 of air pollution over London. Children should be put at the heart of Government plans to tackle air pollution to help prevent damage to their health, a leading charity has said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday February 5, 2019. Current national action "lacks the ambition and direction needed" to protect young people from immediate harm as improvements to air quality are sought, a new report by Unicef UK warns. See PA story HEALTH Pollution. Photo credit should read: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

‘While the study could not show pollutants caused adolescents to have psychotic experiences, our findings suggest that air pollution could be a contributing factor in the link between city living and psychotic experiences.’

Senior author Dr Helen Fisher, from the IoPPN, says: ‘Psychotic disorders are difficult to treat and place a huge burden on individuals, families, health systems and society more broadly.

‘By improving our understanding of what leads to psychotic experiences in adolescence, we can attempt to deal with them early and prevent people from developing psychotic disorders and other serious mental health problems.’

Co-author Professor Frank Kelly, Professor of Environmental Health at King’s, says: ‘Children and young people are most vulnerable to the health impacts of air pollution owing to the juvenility of the brain and respiratory system.

‘Given that 70% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, uncovering the mechanisms linking the urban environment to psychosis should be an urgent health priority. Analysing the health impacts of air pollution is a core component of King’s civic responsibility.’

As the data in the study was taken at one point in time, the researchers say studies which track the association between air pollution and psychotic experiences over longer periods of time are needed.

More work also needs to be done to understand if there are biological mechanisms linking air pollution to adolescent psychotic experiences and to rule out potential confounding factors like noise pollution.

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