Not Just Your Lungs, Delhi’s Smog Is Polluting Your Mental Health Too

Posted by Mind Solace in Environment
November 22, 2017

Imagine waking up early in the morning to a soft, somewhat dim, sunlight. You look forward to another day and fill your lungs with morning air, but you regret that soon.

You cough as if you are choking on smoke, while your eyes water. You might even feel that the oxygen you breathed in freely has been squeezed out of your lungs. It may seem like you have just enough breath left to get your mask or inhaler, lest you succumb to dizziness.

Step out of your house, and you’ll be forced to squint to see anything besides the haze! You sigh, but who can ascertain if it’s out of despair or breathlessness?

I’m sure those residing in the National Capital Region can relate to this scenario.

The early days of November gifted Delhi a thick blanket of smog. Smog primarily refers to a form of air pollution in which air pollutants intensify fog or haze. It is composed of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, ozone gases, vehicular emissions, agriculture fire’s emissions and residues as well as industrial pollution.

The air laden with all such toxins wreaks havoc on the people who breathe it in. This is the root cause of reduced visibility, aggravated asthma and breathing issues, chest constriction, irritation of eyes, and allergies. However, the list of woes doesn’t end there.

For instance, researchers found out that prolonged exposure to low-quality air results in reduced hedonic happiness – the one that makes you and me smile every now and then! It also reduces the affection we experience and leads to an increase in the symptoms of depression.

A researcher working on the same project claims that deterioration in cognitive performance, as well as productivity, is another entailing consequence. Imagine being scolded for scoring poor grades or not being able to work as much as you could, and having nothing but ‘thin air’ to blame for it!

The University of Washington also discovered that the risks of seasonal affective disorder, anxiety disorder and panic attacks hike in smoggy weather.

Furthermore, even those who are planning to add a new little member to their families need to fret about the smog.

According to fertility expert Sagarika Agrawal, the heavy metals and toxins in the air have a detrimental impact on the hormones in one’s body. The levels of estrogen, testosterone and the sperm count in men take this beating.  As many as 15% of Indian males are reportedly infertile, and the current levels of air pollution might just push the number further up.

Various German researchers provide us with more food for thought by establishing that exposure to air pollutants similar to the ones found in smog can render pregnant ladies susceptible to gestational diabetes.

Additionally, the aforementioned hormonal changes have a negative impact on the element of physical intimacy in relationships. This can turn any smooth-sailing relationship into a rocky road, which again, threatens one’s mental health.

Being cooped up in the safety of our homes doesn’t help all that much either. It creates a sense of isolation and renders one inactive, thus taking a toll on one’s well-being.

Do you think this smog can create only respiratory issues for your child? I’m afraid you’ll have to reconsider that point.

The University of Umea in Sweden established a strong correlation between exposure to air pollutants and a 9% increase in a child’s or adolescent’s chances of being diagnosed with mental health problems.

Professor Randy Nelson, Miss Laura Fonken and the Davis Research Group from Ohio State University established that prolonged exposure to air pollution leads to inflammation in Hippocampus, shorter dendrites and reduced complexity of neurons. This translates into reduced learning and memorising abilities. So the next time you’re worried about your child’s academic performance, know that fumes in thin air are also at fault.

Lastly, even the aged are not spared by the wrath of smog. This deadly weather phenomenon is directly correlated to the development of disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, brain stroke, hypertension, brain inflammation and diabetes. These are often clubbed under the name ‘senile disorders’ as they commonly plague the elderly.

We may thus conclude that the risks posed towards our physical and mental health, are not as volatile as the smog with which we are grappling at present. The toll that air pollution is taking on us might stay for the years to come. Nevertheless, this isn’t an indication for giving up.

Perhaps all that we can do to save ourselves at present is taking all the precautionary measures possible. We must also safeguard our mental health in the same vein. If you know someone who is suffering due to poor mental health, help them by booking a session with organisations like Mind Solace or more.

Remember: neither a mask nor an inhaler is enough to protect us from the menace of Delhi’s smog anymore.

About the author: Hemangi Chakravarty is the Editor and a Junior Therapist at Mind Solace