Ambient air pollution and depressive symptoms in older adults: Results from the MOBILIZE Boston study

Yi Wang, Melissa N. Eliot, Petros Koutrakis, Alexandros Gryparis, Joel D. Schwartz, Brent A. Coull, Murray A. Mittleman, William P. Milberg, Lewis A. Lipsitz, Gregory A. Wellenius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

64 Scopus citations


Background: Exposure to ambient air pollution, particularly from traffic, has been associated with adverse cognitive outcomes, but the association with depressive symptoms remains unclear. Objectives: We investigated the association between exposure to ambient air and traffic pollution and the presence of depressive symptoms among 732 Boston-area adults ≥ 65 years of age (78.1 ± 5.5 years, mean ± SD). Methods: We assessed depressive symptoms during home interviews using the Revised Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CESD-R). We estimated residential distance to the nearest major roadway as a marker of long-term exposure to traffic pollution and assessed short-term exposure to ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5), sulfates, black carbon (BC), ultrafine particles, and gaseous pollutants, averaged over the 2 weeks preceding each assessment. We used generalized estimating equations to estimate the odds ratio (OR) of a CESD-R score ≥ 16 associated with exposure, adjusting for potential confounders. In sensitivity analyses, we considered CESD-R score as a continuous outcome and mean annual residential BC as an alternate marker of long-term exposure to traffic pollution. Results: We found no evidence of a positive association between depressive symptoms and longterm exposure to traffic pollution or short-term changes in pollutant levels. For example, we found an OR of CESD-R score ≥ 16 of 0.67 (95% CI: 0.46, 0.98) per interquartile range (3.4 μg/m3) increase in PM2.5 over the 2 weeks preceding assessment. Conclusions: We found no evidence suggesting that ambient air pollution is associated with depressive symptoms among older adults living in a metropolitan area in attainment of current U.S. regulatory standards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)553-558
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Ambient air pollution and depressive symptoms in older adults: Results from the MOBILIZE Boston study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Wang, Y., Eliot, M. N., Koutrakis, P., Gryparis, A., Schwartz, J. D., Coull, B. A., Mittleman, M. A., Milberg, W. P., Lipsitz, L. A., & Wellenius, G. A. (2014). Ambient air pollution and depressive symptoms in older adults: Results from the MOBILIZE Boston study. Environmental Health Perspectives, 122(6), 553-558.