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Pollution can damage your memory

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Pollution can damage your memory

Living in an area with high air pollution can damage your memory to the same extent as ageing ten years.

Professors Nattavudh Powdthavee (Warwick Business School) and Andrew Oswald (Warwick Economics Department and CAGE) examined 34,000 people across England who were asked to remember 10 words in a standardised word recall test. The analysis adjusted for a large number of other influences on the quality of people’s memory including age, health, level of education, ethnicity and family and employment status.

The results revealed a strong link between air pollution (nitrogen dioxide and air particulates) and impaired memory. Andrew Oswald said ‘When it comes to remembering a string of words, a 50 year old in polluted Chelsea performs like a 60 year old in Plymouth.’

The findings are consistent with prior smaller-scale laboratory research on rats and other animals. But this research is some of the first to confirm the same in humans.

Find out more about the research

Nattahvudh Powdthavee and Andrew Oswald, ‘Is there a link between air pollution and impaired memory? Evidence on 34,000 English citizens’, Ecological Economics, forthcoming, Read the working paper here

Air pollution takes a decade off memory, study suggests, The Times, 16 October 2019

Breathing polluted air could damage the memory and age the brain by 10 years in the worst affected areas, study warns, The Daily Mail, 16 October 2019