Air pollution vs an increase in rates of depression and mental illness

This is not a new topic. The medical industry has been discussing it for a while now. And studies continue to show there is a direct link to the air that we breathe and the way we feel.

In particular, it’s been a recent focus for studies in Denmark and the United States. Where the data from both countries confirm a connection has been identified between exposure to polluted air and increased psychiatric and mental health problems within a population.

What causes air pollution to affect our mental health?

There are varying degrees of mental illness. Most develop from either genetic predispositions or traumatic experiences and can be quite severe and debilitating. But there also days when we just ‘feel a bit low’. These feelings are not necessarily linked to or regarded as a mental illness, but they still affect our overall mental wellbeing.

The scientists seem to agree in general; environmental factors and these conditions could be linked. And it’s thought that, when we breathe in the fine particles of dust in polluted air through our nose and lungs, it finds its way to the brain.

That’s not saying we can develop a mental illness from breathing polluted air alone. Of course not. However, the aforementioned medical studies show that environmental factors can play their part in increasing the rate of progression for some mental health conditions. 

The jury is still out, but…

We want to confirm here: the evidence points to a condition being exacerbated by air pollution – not being the sole result of breathing poor air.  But one of the first authors of the joint study between the USA and Denmark we mentioned at the start, computational biologist  Atif Khan, said in a press release:

“Our study shows that living in polluted areas, especially early on in life, is predictive of mental disorders in both the United States and Denmark.”

Although we must point out that Khan and the authors of the study do say that although they observed a connection that doesn’t necessarily prove cause and further research and studies are needed. That, we guess, is playing it safe and, quite rightly. Continuing to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that what they believe to be accurate, is accurate is essential.

But regardless of medical studies and scientific evidence, none of us can deny: we feel better when we breathe in fresh air – right?!

Fresh, unpolluted air can be a tonic

But spending long hours outdoors in fresh air is, of course, not always possible. The vast majority of us work inside. If you then factor in that we are likely to spend many more hours within four walls when we get home; and you can see there’s a problem. We need help.

And how amazing to think that what could help (not cure) is as simple as fresh air!


Ways to get closer to nature and fresh air 


Ensuring you spend as much time in the great outdoors is the simplest way to get your daily dose of unpolluted air. And if we take heed from the studies, this needs to happen from an early age where possible.

Being outside in the fresh air is a tonic you can take without a prescription. It makes you feel alive, happy and energised. You can do the obvious, like take a walk. Or be a little more creative and:

Start or join an outdoor gym

Many communal parks now have free, fixed equipment designed for outdoor exercise. Why not start an informal exercise group with colleagues from your office or business park, a parent group or with your neighbours?


This activity is increasing in popularity and has three beneficial outcomes:

  • Exercise in the fresh air
  • Networking with business contacts
  • Potential work contracts!

Start an outdoor Book Club

Not only will you make new friends, enjoy the benefit of time outdoors, you’ll also get the benefit of feeling inspired and powering up your brain but giving it a rest from office electronics!

Ride your bike to work

This is such a great way to tick several ‘feel good’ boxes. You’ll save money, get fitter, avoid sitting in heavy traffic –and get your necessary quota of time outdoors. If you can’t find a route to your workplace that doesn’t involve traffic polluted main roads, invest in an air-purifying mask to wear while you’re riding.

Embrace the joy of bare feet

Standing (or even walking) with no shoes on has to be tried to understand just how amazingly good this feels. It’s called Earthing. And it means taking your shoes and socks off and allowing your bare feet to connect to the electrons on the Earth’s surface.

Give the windows a schedule!

Closed windows equal stale, unhealthy air. This has many negatives, including increased mould and allergens. Both of which affect your concentration if you’re at work, or your sleep if you’re at home.
If getting outside often is really not possible, don’t worry. We have a few more options for you.

Get some plants to help as indoor air purifiers

If you’ve instigated the window schedule above, then you’ll be going to the window regularly… so plants on the window sill are a great choice to help purify the air in your office or home. Plants are known to filter out volatile organic compounds in the air and by doing so will enhance your wellbeing.
Cacti, along with Aloe Vera, are excellent choices as they help clean the air. As are 70s favourites, spider plants and rubber plants.

Using an Air Purifier

A good quality air purifier will help by generating negative ions. These attract then trap dust and allergens from the room. Which, as mentioned at the start of the article, are believed to negatively affect our mental health and wellbeing if allowed to infiltrate our internal organs for a prolonged period.

A study from the Psychological Medicine journal further endorses the theory that the clean air produced through high-density ions will help relieve depression and increase the likelihood of mental wellbeing.

We hope some of the information we’ve collated will help generate more ideas that could improve your mental wellbeing and invoke the ‘feel good’ factor we all strive to find.

If you’d like more advice on using an IonBox air purifier to improve the quality of air in your home or office, contact us now.