While we know smog affects our respiratory and cardiovascular system health, it could also have important implications for mental health and cognitive abilities.
Research by Shakira Franco Suglia, ScD, of the School of Public Health at Boston University, and colleagues found that higher levels of exposure to black carbon was associated with lower memory test scores and verbal and nonverbal IQ in a sample of 200 children in Boston, whom they followed from birth through age 10 (American Journal of Epidemiology, 2008). Rrederica Perera, DrPH, from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and colleagues found higher levels of attention problems, anxiety and depression symptoms among children with higher levels of exposure to air pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are widespread byproducts of fossil fuel combustion, while in utero (Environmental Health Perspectives, 2012).
A recent study by Melin, Skärsäter, Mowat Hogland, and Ivarsson (Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, July, 2015 issue, pages 1-6) looked at the feasibility and effectiveness of evidence-based treatments for a pediatric patient population undergoing standard treatment in a “usual care” setting. The study recruited 109 children between the ages of 7 to 17 who had been previously diagnosed with primary OCD in Sweden. Children received Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) treatment with some children receiving SSRI therapy as well when indications for this augmentation were present. Assessments were conducted at baseline, 6 and 12 months. At 12 months, 67% were either free of OCD symptoms or in remission, with significantly improved psychosocial functioning evident at both 6 and 12 month assessments, although a third of patients still had moderate to severe OCD symptoms at the 12 month assessment. It was encouraging that the majority of patients in this study experienced improvement with standard treatment. However, more research is needed to understand reasons for the lack of significant improvement in one third of the patients.
In a meta-analysis by Jonsson, Kristensen, and Arendt (Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, July, 2015 issue, pages 83-96), 17 trials of intensive Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) treatment (including 4 randomized controlled trials, or RCTs) were systematically reviewed, or which 11 included adult participants and 6 included youth participants. The total number of participants across all the studies was N = 646. Overall, authors concluded that intensive CBT treatment of patients with OCD is effective for both adults and children with OCD, and, in comparison to standard once or twice-weekly CBT treatment, provides a slightly enhanced post-treatment effect. At three months, the effects of both standard and intensive CBT treatment appeared to be similar. Authors concluded that intensive CBT treatment could enhance post-treatment effects to standard CBT treatment. Additionally, authors recommended that further investigation into how to increase the duration of the effects of intensive CBT treatment could provide a promising avenue of investigation.