Background: Exposure to ambient air pollution, particularly from traffic, has been associated with adverse cognitive outcomes, but the association with depressive symptoms remains unclear.
Objectives: We investigated the association between exposure to ambient air and traffic pollution and the presence of depressive symptoms among 732 Boston-area adults ≥ 65 years of age (78.1 ± 5.5 years, mean ± SD).
Methods: We assessed depressive symptoms during home interviews using the Revised Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CESD-R). We estimated residential distance to the nearest major roadway as a marker of long-term exposure to traffic pollution and assessed short-term exposure to ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5), sulfates, black carbon (BC), ultrafine particles, and gaseous pollutants, averaged over the 2 weeks preceding each assessment. We used generalized estimating equations to estimate the odds ratio (OR) of a CESD-R score ≥ 16 associated with exposure, adjusting for potential confounders. In sensitivity analyses, we considered CESD-R score as a continuous outcome and mean annual residential BC as an alternate marker of long-term exposure to traffic pollution.
Results: We found no evidence of a positive association between depressive symptoms and long-term exposure to traffic pollution or short-term changes in pollutant levels. For example, we found an OR of CESD-R score ≥ 16 of 0.67 (95% CI: 0.46, 0.98) per interquartile range (3.4 μg/m3) increase in PM2.5 over the 2 weeks preceding assessment.
Conclusions: We found no evidence suggesting that ambient air pollution is associated with depressive symptoms among older adults living in a metropolitan area in attainment of current U.S. regulatory standards.
Citation: Wang Y, Eliot MN, Koutrakis P, Gryparis A, Schwartz JD, Coull BA, Mittleman MA, Milberg WP, Lipsitz LA, Wellenius GA. 2014. Ambient air pollution and depressive symptoms in older adults: results from the MOBILIZE Boston Study. Environ Health Perspect 122:553–558; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1205909