There are numerous reasons why your thinking skills — or your cognitive ability — decline later in life. Sometimes it’s due to what’s called “normal cognitive ageing”. Some parts of your brain shrink, and the speed of communication between neurons slows. Sometimes it’s a more serious brain disease, like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or dementia.
The latest reason? Air pollution. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have found that greater exposure to air pollution at the very start of life, was associated with a detrimental effect on people’s cognitive skills up to 60 years later.
If you’re wondering how researchers tested this — we sure were! — they tested the intelligence of more than 500 people aged approximately 70-years-old. It was the same test all participants had completed at the age of 11 years. Confused as to how this could possibly even happen? (Unless the researchers were in their 90s). Well, participants were part of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 study. The same test was then repeated again at age 76, and age 79.
As for how air pollution factored into the study, a record of where each person had lived throughout their life was used to estimate the level of air pollution they’d been exposed to, and experienced, in their early years. Statistical models were then used to analyse the relationship between a person’s exposure to air pollution, and their thinking skills in later life.
What researchers found was that exposure to air pollution in childhood had a small, but detectable association with worse cognitive change between the ages of 11 and 70. Director of the Alzheimer Scotland Research Centre at the university, Dr Tom Russ, said, “This is the first step towards understanding the harmful effects of air pollution on the brain, and could help reduce the risk of dementia for future generations.”
For anyone who is reading this and is worried about their own exposure to air pollution, an air purifier can help — and as the name suggests — delivers pure air to your home, or straight to your face.