We all know that there are some things which correlate positively with mental illness: Stress, negative changes in economics, etc. But it’s more than that – and it’s some areas which you probably wouldn’t expect.
So, here are a three random items – well, seemingly random items – which are correlated with mental illness.
And a reminder straight out of Statistics 101: Correlation does not equal causation. Two items being linked doesn’t mean that one causes the other.
1) Air Pollution
I stumbled across this one while looking at the news, and it really surprised me, but here goes: Air pollution in children is positively correlated with worse psychiatric disorders, according to a study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The study also noted that already existing research had already established the connection in adults. So, as if we needed another reason to reduce air pollutions (besides all the asthma and death and climate change), here’s more. And, because life is deeply unfair if you’re poor, the study also found that the worst outcomes were reserved for kids who lived in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
2) Childhood infections
This one is, admittedly, not one I would have expected but when you think about it, it sort of makes sense.
According to a 2018 report, researchers in Denmark found links between certain infections and some mental illnesses, like depression, bipolar and schizophrenia. The theory here is that certain infections can activate the immune system. This, in turn, caused certain mental illnesses to set in.
This wasn’t a small study, either – it tracked 1.1 million Denmark children born over a seven year period.
3) Brain inflammation
I’ve actually discussed this one before, but there appears to be a connection between inflammation and depression. As noted in the link above, there is some research to indicate that anti-inflammatory drugs may be able to help reduce symptoms of depression.
Further research and writings have indicated that it is possible that inflammation is at the core of many physical and mental illnesses. As such, treating brain inflammation may be critical to reducing depression, anxiety and a whole array of other psychiatric disorders.
I’d actually argue that the brain inflammation one is the most interesting here. Why? Because the last article highlights just how much we know now compared to what we thought we knew years ago – and, of course, we will likely repeat that observation in the next ten years as well. What else will we learn? Will we be able to specifically engage in gene therapy to fight off mental illnesses? What kinds of treatments will evolve? It’s a fascinating question.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!