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A recent Umeå University research study has concluded that there is a link between concentrations of air pollution and both decreased mental health and psychiatric medications in children under the age of 18. The researchers looked at air pollution exposure and psychiatric health in children and adolescents by studying register based medication data in a database which contains this information for all Swedes. The study also included air pollution concentration data from the Swedish National Register. The study looked at entire populations for a variety of Swedish countries with varying demographics, migration and socioeconomic characteristics, and other factors. The researchers determined that higher levels of air pollution also raised the risk that medication would be dispensed to address at least one psychiatric diagnosis for individuals under the age of 18.

The study on air pollution and mental health in children and adolescents should be a cause for concern. Researchers found that an increase of nitrogen dioxide concentration in the air by just 10 micrograms per cubic meter caused the risk of medication being dispensed to this age group for one or more psychiatric disorders by as much as 9%. This increase was calculated after the researchers took all possible factors including demographic and socioeconomic factors into account. Unit for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at Umeå University researcher Anna Oudin, Ph.D., the lead researcher for the study, explained that “The results can mean that a decreased concentration of air pollution, first and foremost traffic-related air pollution, may reduce psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents.”