BACKGROUND : Whilst there is little uncertainty about the deleterious impact of pollution on human and planetary health, pollution’s impact on adolescent mental health is less well understood. This is particularly true for young people in underdeveloped and developing world contexts, about whom research is generally lacking. Furthermore, although adolescent resilience continues to be a research priority, little attention has been paid to adolescent pathways of resilience in the face or aftermath of pollution exposure. The objective of this study will be to examine the associations between pollution and mental health in 10- to 24-year-olds (i.e. adolescents).
METHODS : We designed and registered a study protocol for a systematic review of studies which link pollution and mental health in adolescents. We will include observational studies (e.g. cohort, case-control, time series analyses) that assess the associations between exposure to any form of pollution and the mental health of 10- to 24-year-olds. The primary outcome will be symptoms associated with neurodevelopmental disorders; disruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorders; depressive disorders; anxiety disorders; substance disorders; and schizophrenia. No secondary outcomes will be considered. Literature searches will be conducted in multiple electronic databases (from inception onwards), including PubMed, MEDLINE, SCOPUS, Web of Science, CINAHL, PsycINFO, SciELO, ERIC, and Africa-Wide. Two investigators will independently screen all citations, full-text articles, and abstract data. The methodological quality (or bias) of included studies will be appraised using appropriate tools. We will provide a narrative synthesis of the evidence.
DISCUSSION : This systematic review will evaluate the evidence on the associations between pollution and the mental health of 10- to 24-year-olds. Our findings will be of potential interest to multiple audiences (including adolescent patients/clients, their families, caregivers, healthcare professionals, scientists, and policy makers) and could be used to develop prevention and intervention strategies as well as focus future research. Results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.