Paper: Psychological effects of air pollution on healthy residents—A time-series approach

Pollution, Psychology // 10 mins


Effects of air pollution on psychological state, mental functioning and physiological arousal were investigated in 22 healthy female volunteers residing in a polluted and a non-polluted region of Bavaria (FRG). For two months, daily assessments of mood, perceived stress air quality and annoyance reactions were obtained together with daily recordings of pollutant concentrations (SO2, NO, NO2, CO, CnHm-Ch4 and dust) and weather variables (temperature, humidity, air-pressure). Ability to concentrate, reaction time, urinary cortisol and catecholamines, blood-pressure and bodily complaints were assessed at weekly intervals.

Results indicated an overall low pollution level with higher SO2 levels in the polluted as compared to the non-polluted area. While pollutants were unrelated to physiological arousal and somatic state, impairments in reaction time to visual stimuli and in ability to concentrate appeared to be associated with increased pollutant concentrations. Multiple time-series analyses revealed area-related effects of SO2 on mood and stress synchronously as well as with a time-delay of 1 to 4 days. Single case time-series analyses yielded a higher proportion of pollutant-sensitive persons in terms of psychological state in the polluted area as compared to the non-polluted area. Results suggest effects of low-level ambient pollutants on impaired psychological wellbeing and demonstrate the potential of multiple time-series methodology for process-oriented ecological research.

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Published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, Volume 9, Issue 2, June 1989, Pages 103-118.