Living near major roads is linked to a higher risk of neurological disorders, a study from the University of B.C. has found.
Researchers analyzed data from 678,000 people in Metro Vancouver between the ages of 45-84 from 1994 to 1998 and again from 1999 to 2003.
During the follow up, they identified around 20,000 cases of non-Alzheimer’s dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
The study looked at how living within 50 metres of a major road, or 150 metres from a highway, increased the risk of these degenerative neurological diseases. Little is known so far about why those diseases progress.
Because relatively few people had Alzheimer’s or multiple sclerosis in the region, researchers focused on non-Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease. The data showed a 14-per-cent increase in non-Alzheimer’s dementia and a seven-per-cent uptick in Parkinson’s for those living near major routes.
The effect was largely due to air pollution, but could be mitigated through living near green spaces.
“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,” said lead author Weiran Yuchi, a PhD candidate at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health.
Researchers believe green space could lessen the risk of neurological disorders in several ways.
“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,” said professor and senior study author Michael Brauer. “There may even be benefits from just the visual aspects of vegetation.”