Associations between air pollution and perceived stress: The Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study -No section-

Amar J. Mehta, Laura D. Kubzansky, Brent A. Coull, Itai Kloog, Petros Koutrakis, David Sparrow, Avron Spiro, Pantel Vokonas, Joel Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Background: There is mixed evidence suggesting that air pollution may be associated with increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders. We aimed to investigate the association between air pollution and non-specific perceived stress, often a precursor to development of affective psychiatric disorders. Methods: This longitudinal analysis consisted of 987 older men participating in at least one visit for the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study between 1995 and 2007 (n∈=∈2,244 visits). At each visit, participants were administered the 14-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), which quantifies stress experienced in the previous week. Scores ranged from 0-56 with higher scores indicating increased stress. Differences in PSS score per interquartile range increase in moving average (1, 2, and 4-weeks) of air pollution exposures were estimated using linear mixed-effects regression after adjustment for age, race, education, physical activity, anti-depressant medication use, seasonality, meteorology, and day of week. We also evaluated effect modification by season (April-September and March-October for warm and cold season, respectively). Results: Fine particles (PM2.5), black carbon (BC), nitrogen dioxide, and particle number counts (PNC) at moving averages of 1, 2, and 4-weeks were associated with higher perceived stress ratings. The strongest associations were observed for PNC; for example, a 15,997 counts/cm3 interquartile range increase in 1-week average PNC was associated with a 3.2 point (95%CI: 2.1-4.3) increase in PSS score. Season modified the associations for specific pollutants; higher PSS scores in association with PM2.5, BC, and sulfate were observed mainly in colder months. Conclusions: Air pollution was associated with higher levels of perceived stress in this sample of older men, particularly in colder months for specific pollutants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Issue number1
StatePublished - 27 Jan 2015


  • Aged
  • Air pollution
  • Male
  • Particulate matter
  • Prospective studies
  • Psychological
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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