A new study published on January 4th in The Lancet suggests that people who live near heavily circulated roads could be more susceptible to developing dementia, multiple sclerosis, or even Parkinson’s disease. Over the course of eleven years, from 2001 until 2012, a team of Canadian researchers pulled data on 6.6 million Ontario residents in order to find a link between an increased risk of developing mental health issues attributed to people living in close proximity to heavily circulated arteries.
While the authors of the study pointed out that they have not successfully been able to prove cause-and-effect, the researchers did find an association between an increased risk of developing dementia and individuals living less than 650 feet away from a busy road.
The Ontario residents who took part in the study were aged between 20 and 85. When the survey concluded, the researchers discovered that 31,500 subjects developed Parkinson’s, roughly 9,000 others have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and more than 243,000 of the participants developed dementia. However, out of all these conditions, only dementia was associated with living close to a heavily circulated road.
“Our study suggests that busy roads could be a source of environmental stressors that could give rise to the onset of dementia”, said Hong Chen, study author with Public Health Ontario during a press conference.
While living dangerously close to a busy road comes with certain risks, researchers also discovered that the likelihood of developing mental health issues dropped gradually as people moved away from major arteries. Hence, individuals living up to 650 feet away from a heavily circulated road presented no significant risk of developing dementia or other related diseases. Nevertheless, the team of researchers discovered that people living within 164 feet of a major road presented a 7 percent higher risk of developing mental health issues, specifically dementia. For those living up to 300 feet away from a main street, though, the risk of developing dementia, later on, dropped to four percent.
Some believe that the long-term exposure to certain air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide may be at fault for people living in close proximity to major arteries developing dementia. On the other hand, others think that traffic noise may have a stronger impact than previously believed on one’s mental health.
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