Does Mental Health Status Influence Susceptibility to the Physiologic Effects of Air Pollution? A Population Based Study of Canadian Children.


BACKGROUND: Both air pollution exposure and the presence of mental illness are associated with an increased risk of physical illness. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether or not children with less favourable mental health are more susceptible to pulmonary and cardiovascular effects of ambient air pollution, compared to those who are mentally healthy. METHODS: We carried out a cross-sectional study of 1,883 children between the ages of 6 and 17 years of age who participated in the Canadian Health Measures population survey between 2007 and 2009. Subjects were assigned the air pollution values obtained from the National Air Pollution monitor closest to their neighborhood. Lung function, heart rate and blood pressure were stratified by indicators of mental health. The latter were ascertained by questions about feelings of happiness, a diagnosed mood disorder, and the emotional symptom subscale of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. RESULTS: Among those who reported a mood disorder, an interquartile increase in ozone was associated with increases in systolic and diastolic pressures of 3.8 mmHg (95% CI 1.6, 5.9) and 3.0mmHg (95%CI 0.9, 5.2) respectively, and a decreases in FVC of 7.6% (95% CI 2.9, 12.3). No significant changes in these variables were observed in those who did not report a mood disorder. Among those with unfavourable emotional symptoms, ozone was associated with a 6.4% (95% CI 1.7, 11.3) increase in heart rate, a 4.1% (95%CI 1.2, 7.1) increase in systolic blood pressure, and a 6.0% (95% CI 1.4, 10.6) decrease in FEVl. No significant effect was seen in these variables among those with no emotional symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: In the Canadian population, children who report mood disorders or unfavourable emotional symptoms appear to be more vulnerable to the adverse physiologic effects of air pollution.