The Invisible Threat to Our Mental Health
It was only in 1994 that the Canadian Government began to introduce laws preventing people from smoking inside restaurants, malls, planes, offices and even hospitals. Today, this seems absurd – especially when considering that the connection between smoking and cancer, lung disease, and a slew of other dangers was known as early as 30 years prior. So why did it take so long to get restrictions in place?
The reason is due to a lack of public support due to the lack of instant harm. Much like the ill effects of poor indoor air quality – the ill effects of cigarette smoke built up over time, and people couldn’t see them right away – so they didn’t believe it.
The Poor Indoor Air Quality Issue
We continue to face this issue today with poor indoor air quality. We know that it’s dangerous – the World Health Organization lists air pollution as the 4th leading cause of death and disease worldwide – yet people rarely consider the quality of the air they breathe. While thankfully we can now go out for dinner without risking a lungful of secondhand smoke, our indoor air still contains threats such as benzene, chloroform, airborne pathogens, and particulate matter such as dust and allergens. Many of these threats are known carcinogens.
Over the long term, these particles can have extremely detrimental effects on our physical health as well as on the health of our most important organ – the brain. In this article, we’ll help to break down the mental health problems related to poor indoor air quality, and the ways that we can mitigate them.
Rates of depression have been growing rapidly in recent times, and sadly they are only going up. Alarmingly, depression now affects more than 264 million people worldwide. It is believed that this spike is related to a change in human behavioural patterns. Some have called us the “Indoor Generation”, with studies showing that humans are now spending around 90% of their lives indoors. Could it be that pollutants in the air are playing a part in our collective unhappiness?
Studies show that when inhaled, particulate matter in the air causes inflammation in the central nervous system. In turn, this inflammation may increase the risk of developing depressive disorders.
Do you know that feeling – where something is wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on it? It turns out that all those sleepless nights could just be the body’s reaction to bad air.
Research shows that breathing in pollution causes oxidative stress, which has direct effects on the parts of the brain that regulate the production of cortisol – our major stress hormone. This can lead to increased feelings of fearfulness, dread, anxiety or even chronic stress syndrome.
3. Alzheimer’s and Dementia
As young people start their first jobs in offices, air quality is likely the last thing on their minds. However over the course of a long professional career, consistently breathing in toxins and pollutants can have frightening effects.
There is strong evidence to suggest an association between poor air quality and cognitive decline. One study showed that adults living in areas with the highest levels of pollution were 1.4x more likely to develop dementia. Another showed that long-term exposure to pollution resulted in lower grades on both verbal and math tests.
With levels of pollution on the rise, it’s like we’re all sitting in the smoking section. Poor air quality affects everyone. So what can we do to protect ourselves?
Origen’s smart living air purifiers are multi-faceted. We create eco-friendly products that result in less pollution and cleaner air. We use a specialized app and sensors to help make people aware of the dangers in their air, and then our plant-based purifiers absorb toxins and filter particles to help eliminate those dangers.
We believe that in order to build a better future, we need to have fully capable and forward-thinking brains. We need a pollution solution for both the planet and the people.
We need clean air, naturally.
To be a part of the Origen Story, click here.
- Barron, Henry, et al. “Neuroinflammation and Oxidative Stress in Psychosis and Psychosis Risk.” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 17 Mar. 2017, www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/18/3/651.
- Carey, Iain M, et al. “Are Noise and Air Pollution Related to the Incidence of Dementia? A Cohort Study in London, England.” BMJ Open, British Medical Journal Publishing Group, 1 Sept. 2018, bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/9/e022404.
- Lake, James. “The Impact of Air Pollution on Mental Health.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 8 Jan. 2020, www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/integrative-mental-health-care/202001/the-impact-air-pollution-mental-health.
- Ruble, Kayla. “Read the Surgeon General’s 1964 Report on Smoking and Health.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 12 Jan. 2014, www.pbs.org/newshour/health/first-surgeon-general-report-on-smokings-health-effects-marks-50-year-anniversary.
- Walden, Stephanie. “The ‘Indoor Generation’ and the Health Risks of Spending More Time Inside.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 17 May 2018, www.usatoday.com/story/sponsor-story/velux/2018/05/15/indoor-generation-and-health-risks-spending-more-time-inside/610289002/.
- World Health Organization. “Air Pollution.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution.
- World Health Organization. “Depression.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression.
- Zhang, Xin, et al. “The Impact of Exposure to Air Pollution on Cognitive Performance.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 11 Sept. 2018, www.pnas.org/content/115/37/9193.