Traffic pollution can be as bad for your happiness as divorce

Oli Gamp
Beijing smog

An academic study has found that traffic pollution can put you through the same level of trauma as going through a divorce.

The University of York claimed that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) can mirror "big hitting" events in one's personal life, such as losing a loved one due to its "negative association" with life satisfaction.

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"Our results suggest a significant and negative association between mean annual ambient NO2 and life satisfaction, and moreover that these effects are substantive and comparable to that of many 'big hitting' life events."

"For example, our standardised coefficients suggest that the effect of NO2 on life satisfaction is equivalent to approximately half that of unemployment, and equivalent to that of marital separation and widowhood, factors commonly associated with some of the largest wellbeing reductions in the literature to date."

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The academics encouraged reductions in NO2 levels after concluding that there would be "welfare gains" during a time where a scrappage scheme on diesel cars, which emit NO2, is being discussed.

Drivers of older diesel cars could be offered up to £2,000 ($2,520) towards a new, greener car if ministers agree on such a scheme.

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"Given that the effect of NO2 is, to some extent, experienced by everyone (ie not everyone is unemployed but everyone is subject to a certain level of NO2 exposure) this suggests that the welfare gains to society from reductions in exposure to NO2 can be substantive."

London air pollution

Talks to tackle diesel cars have been ongoing for many years but there has been some disagreement on how detrimental they can be to the environment. When Tony Blair was prime minister, UK drivers were urged to buy diesel cars instead of petrol.

It is believed that the NO2 that diesel cars emit can cause asthma and other lung diseases, while around 12,000 premature deaths were reported in 2013 due to air pollution.

The current number of diesel cars on UK roads stands at roughly 11.2m. 17% of these cars are over 12 years old, which increases the harm their emissions do to the environment.

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