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Air Pollution and Mental Health: Evidence from China

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  • Shuai Chen
  • Paulina Oliva
  • Peng Zhang

Abstract

A large body of literature estimates the effect of air pollution on health. However, most of these studies have focused on physical health, while the effect on mental health is limited. Using the China Family Panel Studies (CFPS) covering 12,615 urban residents during 2014 – 2015, we find significantly positive effect of air pollution – instrumented by thermal inversions – on mental illness. Specifically, a one-standard-deviation (18.04 μg/m3) increase in average PM2.5 concentrations in the past month increases the probability of having a score that is associated with severe mental illness by 6.67 percentage points, or 0.33 standard deviations. Based on average health expenditures associated with mental illness and rates of treatment among those with symptoms, we calculate that these effects induce a total annual cost of USD 22.88 billion in health expenditures only. This cost is on a similar scale to pollution costs stemming from mortality, labor productivity, and dementia.

Suggested Citation

  • Shuai Chen & Paulina Oliva & Peng Zhang, 2018. "Air Pollution and Mental Health: Evidence from China," NBER Working Papers 24686, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24686
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    Cited by:

    1. Deschenes, Olivier & Wang, Huixia & Wang, Si & Zhang, Peng, 2020. "The effect of air pollution on body weight and obesity: Evidence from China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(C).
    2. Yi, Fujin & Ye, Haijian & Wu, Ximing & Zhang, Y. Yvette & Jiang, Fei, 2020. "Self-aggravation effect of air pollution: Evidence from residential electricity consumption in China," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(C).
    3. Lucas Bretschger & Karen Pittel, 2019. "Twenty Key Questions in Environmental and Resource Economics," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 19/328, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
    4. Chen, Siyu & Guo, Chongshan & Huang, Xinfei, 2018. "Air Pollution, Student Health, and School Absences: Evidence from China," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 465-497.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling

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