Depression Cases in China Rise Due to Severe Smog
Mental health experts have recorded a slight increase in depression cases in China at the height of the severe air pollution that engulfed parts of Beijing on Monday, prompting the closure of schools and the halting of outdoor construction.
Called the "smog blues", psychiatrists have noted the worsening of depression symptoms for those who have been diagnosed with the mental illness after they were exposed to the serious air pollution.
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Wang Jian, a psychiatrist at Beijing Huilongguan Hospital, said more research has to be done to know the link between serious air pollution and the smog blues.
Jian said understanding the link would help mental health doctors protect people from potential mental health disorders that could be caused by serious pollution.
The veteran psychiatrist said a large number of patients with depression and neurosis came to him and complained about their worsening symptoms after being exposed to the polluted air.
He reportedly told them to stay indoors and turn on all the lights in their homes.
Jian said not only those who have psychiatric diseases can be affected by ecological pressures like smog.
"Everybody can be affected even able-bodied and normal individuals," he said.
But Tian Chenghua, a professor at the Institute for Psychiatric Research at Peking University's No 6 Hospital, said there was no increase in patient admissions during the smoggy weather condition that started Monday.
He said that the polluted weather condition usually lasts from 3 to 4 days and even then, this seldom leads to mental problems.
Tian lamented that China is bereft of further studies about the links of weather conditions to mental health.
The psychiatrist said that a woman who was diagnosed with depression three years ago came to him and complained that her mood worsened after the five-day smoggy weather.
"It made me feel desperate sometimes on smoggy days. When the weather gets better, the sunshine heals me a lot," she said.
Tian pointed out that depressed patients are highly affected by weather and environmental changes including smog, seasonal changes and a lack of sunlight.
Tian was referring to the "winter blues", also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, which affects people in the Northern Hemisphere.
Symptoms of the winter blues include depression, decreased energy, sleeping too much, weight gain, carbohydrates craving, among others.
Light therapy is usually advised to those suffering from winter blues.