The link between air pollution and bad health should not be understated. 9,400 premature deaths have been associated with poor air quality and it costs our health services between £1.4 and £3.7 billion a year to deal with.
Poor air pollution could play a part in the speeding up of cognitive decline and dementia, which in turn could cause more people with dementia demanding mental health care, according to a new study.
The new research published in the open-access journal BMJ Mental Health found that those who were diagnosed with dementia who also lived in large areas of London with heavy traffic were more likely to ask for help with their mental health.
Around 940,000 Brits are currently living with dementia, according to NHS figures. this number is set to increase to two million by 2050 in line with the ageing of the population. Currently, dementia is the leading cause of death in women in the UK.
The new findings back up several studies which have also focused on the effects of air pollution in older age – including the potential role it plays in increasing cognitive decline and dementia.
Though air pollution has been known to increased health service use by people with dementia, the majority of studies have largely focused on hospital services, rather than community services, which is where most people with the condition are managed in the UK.
It’s for this reason that the researchers analysed the use of community mental health services over the past 9 years. The study looked at 5024 older people (65 and above) who lived in 4 boroughs of South London following their initial dementia diagnosis between 2008 and 2012.
The researchers found that the higher the exposure to air pollution, the greater the use of mental health services, especially when exposed to nitrogen dioxide. This was particularly recognisable among those with vascular dementia.
“The reduction in air pollution and particularly NO2 through public health interventions such as the expansion of ultra-low emission zones could potentially improve functioning and disease trajectories for people with dementia,” the researchers say.