Air pollution substantially reduces cognitive ability in older adults

  • A very large study shows that greater exposure to air pollution was linked to poorer cognitive performance in older adults, especially men and the less educated.

A large Chinese study involving 20,000 people has found that the longer people were exposed to air pollution, the worse their cognitive performance in verbal and math tests. The effect of air pollution on verbal tests became more pronounced with age, especially for men and the less educated.

The study followed the participants from 2010 to 2014, meaning that the same individuals could be assessed as air pollution varied from one year to the next.

The findings add to previous research showing the harmful effects of air pollution on cognitive performance in children.


Xin Zhang, Xi Chen, Xiaobo Zhang. 2018. The impact of exposure to air pollution on cognitive performance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Sep 2018, 115 (37) 9193-9197; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1809474115