Epidemiology Conference Discussion: Pollution, Infection and Other Potential Causes of Mental Illness

Epidemiologists have long suspected, and frequently proven in studies, the relationship between many psychiatric disorders and illicit drug use. It is not surprising that long-term use of psychoactive substances could eventually cause mental illness. However, drugs are not the only cause of this type of health concern. There are many common, daily occurrences that could explain why people suddenly develop a psychiatric disorder.

Adverse Life Experiences

Depression, PTSD and the worsening of existing mental problems due to drug or alcohol addictions commonly occur following a traumatic experience. The trauma could be sudden such as an accident, the death of a loved one or what soldiers experience when serving during a war. It may also build up slowly over a period of time. Vulnerable individuals include children in abusive homes, people with violent partners and anyone experiencing a high level of stress at work or school.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Injury to the brain either before or after birth is another concern. Prenatal damage could be the result of a failed medical procedure, behavior of the mother or an accident while the fetus was developing. Head trauma in children and adults from accidents or a serious illness like a brain tumor are also known to sometimes lead to the development of mental disorders.

Serious Infectious Diseases

HIV has been linked to the development of dementia and studies show patients with Streptococcus infections often suffer from OCD following their illness. Toxoplasma gondii infections have been tentatively linked with schizophrenia, but there is no definitive proof yet. One-third of the psychiatric patients in one medical study were proven to have previously been exposed to Lyme disease.

High Pollution Levels

Statistics have shown that areas with the highest levels of air pollution also have the greatest number of children with mental illness. However, children are not the only ones at risk. Adults also display higher levels of anxiety-related problems, and some researchers believe the pollutants may also be to blame for growing rates of depression.

Every Epidemiology conference is now centered on discovering how drugs, the environment and injuries play a role in the mental health of societies. Understanding these risks will hopefully lead to effective preventative measures and treatments.