Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 02:04 pm

Research has linked living near major roads to an increased risk of a number of neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease

This is according to University of British Columbia (UBC) researchers who analysed data for 678 000 adults in Metro Vancouver.

The researchers found that living fewer than 50 metres from a major road or fewer than 150 metres from a highway is associated with a higher risk of developing dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis (MS).

This is likely due to increased exposure to air pollution.

“For the first time, we have confirmed a link between air pollution and traffic proximity with a higher risk of dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and MS at the population level,” says Weiran Yuchi, the study’s lead author and a PhD candidate in the UBC School of Population and Public Health.

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Green protection

The researchers also found that living near green spaces, like parks, has protective effects against developing these neurological disorders.

The good news is that green spaces appear to have some protective effects in reducing the risk of developing one or more of these disorders. More research is needed, but our findings do suggest that urban planning efforts to increase accessibility to green spaces and to reduce motor vehicle traffic would be beneficial for neurological health.”

Neurological disorders (a range of disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and motor neuron diseases) are increasingly recognised as one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide.

Little is known about the risk factors associated with neurological disorders, the majority of which are incurable and typically worsen over time.

The study

Researchers analysed data for 678 000 adults between the ages of 45 and 84 who lived in Metro Vancouver from 1994 to 1998 and during a follow-up period from 1999 to 2003.

They estimated individual exposures to road proximity, air pollution, noise and greenness at each person’s residence using postal code data.

For non-Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease specifically, living near major roads or a highway was associated with 14 per cent and seven per cent increased risk of both conditions, respectively.

When the researchers accounted for green space, they found the effect of air pollution on neurological disorders was mitigated. The researchers suggest that this protective effect could be due to several factors.

“For people who are exposed to a higher level of green space, they are more likely to be physically active and may also have more social interactions,” says Michael Brauer, the study’s senior author and professor in the UBC School of Population and Public Health. “There may even be benefits from just the visual aspects of vegetation.”

Source: University of British Columbia via

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