Is Indoor Air Quality Linked To Depression?

This is a guest article by Lucy Wyndham

About 3.8 million people die each year due to illnesses attributable to indoor air pollution. Apart from the well-established physical effects of indoor air pollution, studies are now also focusing on how indoor air quality could be linked to mental health conditions — particularly depression, which is a prevalent concern for many South Africans. In the process of finding ways to combat depression, we should also look at how one’s environment can play a role in this mental health issue. If you’re experiencing depressive symptoms, there’s some merit in learning about how indoor air quality might be linked to your mental health.

The Relationship Between Indoor Air Quality And Depression

Indoor air quality can be compromised due to a number of factors, including mould, dust, pollen, cigarette smoke, asbestos and toxic chemicals from household products or pesticides. In South Africa, the use of fossil fuels is also a major contributor to indoor air pollution. While physical health effects such as allergies, asthma and respiratory infections have been well-established, studies on the impact of indoor air quality on mental health conditions are not yet as in-depth. Nevertheless, existing research has found that there is a significant increase in cases of depression as people are exposed to more air pollutants. It was also found that there are more emergency department admissions for depressive symptoms when there are increased levels of air pollution.

The Indoor Air Quality Of Your Home

When it comes to specific air pollutants found in most households, cigarette smoke, asbestos and pesticides have all been associated with mental health issues. As another major contributor to indoor air pollution in South Africa, mould has also been linked with depression and other mentally stressful conditions such as lack of energy, sleep problems and social isolation. If you’re suddenly experiencing symptoms of depression —  such as feeling sad, anxious and helpless, having no motivation, or being easily fatigued —  you might want to check the indoor air quality of your home. Given the relationship between indoor air quality and depression, it’s important that your home environment is clean and free of air pollutants. You can do this by removing health risks such as mould, ensuring proper ventilation, controlling humidity levels and switching to non-toxic household products.

Indoor Air Quality And Your Mental Health

Once your home environment has been controlled, you’re in a much better position to assess your mental health. You might start to feel better and experience a reduction in depressive symptoms. It’s also possible to reap other mental health benefits, such as less stress and better sleep quality. However, a change in your mental health doesn’t always happen overnight. If depressive symptoms or other mental health issues persist, don’t hesitate to enlist the services of a mental health professional. Regardless of whether your depression was caused by indoor air pollution or not, therapy or other psychological interventions will be very beneficial in improving your overall mental well-being.

Idoor air pollution is a major health concern in South Africa. Since physical health effects such as allergies or asthma are more noticeable, you might not immediately realise that the air quality at home is also taking a toll on your mental well-being. Studies have found that specific air pollutants like smoke and mould could play a role in the onset of depressive symptoms. In order to get a clearer picture of your mental health, you should take the necessary steps to ensure that your home environment is pollution-free. Meanwhile, if you still experience mental health issues, you can consult a professional who will provide you with the appropriate psychological interventions.

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