A Scoping Review of Non-Occupational Exposures to Environmental Pollutants and Adult Depression, Anxiety, and Suicide

Aisha S. Dickerson, Alexander C. Wu, Zeyan Liew, Marc Weisskopf

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose of Review: Despite a call for better understanding of the role of environmental pollutant influences on mental health and the tremendous public health burden of mental health, this issue receives far less attention than many other effects of pollutants. Here we summarize the body of literature on non-occupational environmental pollutant exposures and adult depression, anxiety, and suicide—in PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and PsychINFO through the end of year 2018. Recent Findings: One hundred twelve articles met our criteria for further review. Of these, we found 88 articles on depression, 33 on anxiety, and 22 on suicide (31 articles covered multiple outcomes). The earliest article was published in 1976, and the most frequent exposure of interest was air pollution (n = 33), followed by secondhand smoke (n = 20), metals (n = 18), noise (n = 17), and pesticides (n = 10). Other exposures studied less frequently included radiation, magnetic fields, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), volatile organic compounds, solvents, and reactive sulfur compounds. Summary: The current literature, although limited, clearly suggests many kinds of environmental exposures may be risk factors for depression, anxiety, and suicide. For several pollutants, important limitations exist with many of the studies. Gaps in the body of research include a need for more longitudinal, life-course studies, studies that can measure cumulative exposures as well as shorter-term exposures, studies that reduce the possibility of reverse causation, and mechanistic studies focused on neurotoxic exposures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-271
Number of pages16
JournalCurrent environmental health reports
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Mental health
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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