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Study Demonstrates Connection Between Stress, Air Pollution, and Heart Health Risk



According to a study conducted in more than 3,000 US counties with 315 million individuals, there may be a connection between stress and depression and air pollution, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease death for those under 65. The study is being presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s (ESC) 2024 Preventive Cardiology scientific symposium.

The World Health Organization estimates that 4.2 million premature deaths globally occurred in 2019 as a result of air pollution. Premature death has also been connected to mental disease. This study investigated the potential relationship between air pollution and poor mental health and their combined effect on cardiovascular disease death.

The study concentrated on fine particles, or PM2.5, which are particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers. They provide the greatest health danger and are produced by burning wood, power plant combustion, and automobile exhaust emissions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided county-level data on yearly PM2.5 levels, which were used in the study. (CDC).4 The World Health Organization (WHO) classified 4 PM2.5 exposure as high or low. The CDC provided the researchers with information on the average number of days (age-standardized) that county residents dealt with mental health problems, such as stress, depression, and emotional difficulties. These numbers were then used to divide each county into three groups. Top third counties reported the highest number of days with poor mental health (PMH). The CDC provided the age-adjusted premature cardiovascular death rates (for those under 65) for each county. The County Health Rankings initiative provided the county characteristics.

In 2013, 315,720,938 people (with over 207 million between the ages of 20 and 64 and 50% female) lived in 3,047 US counties that were included in the study. Approximately 1,079,656 (0.34%) of the participants died from cardiovascular illness before reaching the age of 65 between 2013 and 2019. After accounting for variables that might have an impact on the connections, the researchers examined the correlations between pollution, mental health, and early cardiovascular death.

Compared to counties with clean air (low PM2.5 concentrations), those with filthy air (high PM2.5 concentrations) had a 10% higher likelihood of reporting high PMH days. The danger was significantly higher in counties where poverty or the presence of minority groups was high. There was a stronger correlation seen in counties with greater levels of air pollution (above WHO recommended values: ≥10 µm2) between PMH and premature cardiovascular death. When compared to lower PMH levels, there was a three-fold increase in early cardiovascular death in these counties with higher PMH levels. Moreover, an elevated burden of PMH accounted for one-third of the risk of early cardiovascular mortality associated with pollution.

Dr. Abohashem said: “Our results reveal a dual threat from air pollution: it not only worsens mental health but also significantly amplifies the risk of heart-related deaths associated with poor mental health. Public health strategies are urgently needed to address both air quality and mental wellbeing in order to preserve cardiovascular health.”


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