Urban Youth Exposed to Air Pollution Have Greater Risk of Psychotic Experiences

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“air pollution, beijing” by 大杨 is licensed under CC BY 2.0Joanne B. Newbury, PhD
ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow
King’s College London
Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre
Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience
London, United Kingdom

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Urban living is one of the most well-established risk factors for adult psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. However, less is known about the role of the urban environment in subclinical psychotic experiences in childhood and adolescence, such as hearing voices and extreme paranoia. These early psychotic experiences are a developmental risk factor for adult psychotic disorders and a range of other serious mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

It is therefore important that we understand what factors might contribute to the development of early psychotic experiences so that we might be able to intervene and prevent their onset and progression.

In a cohort of over 2000 UK-born children (The Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study), we have previously shown that subclinical psychotic experiences are also around twice as common among children and teenagers raised in urban versus rural settings. We have also shown that this appears to be partly explained by social features in urban neighbourhoods such as higher crime levels and lower levels of social cohesion.

However, no studies have examined the potential link between air pollution and psychotic experiences. This is despite air pollution being a major health problem worldwide (particularly in cities), and despite emerging evidence linking air pollution to the brain.  Continue reading