Researchers found that elderly people did worse on thinking tests if they lived in areas with high levels of air pollution, compared to those in areas with relatively clean air.
The team from University of southern California presented their findings at the Gerontological Society of America’s annual scientific meeting, in San Diego.
Postgraduate doctoral fellow Jennifer Ailshire conducted the analysis using data from the American Environmental Protection Agency and the Health and Retirement Study.
She said: “As a result of age-related declines in health and functioning, older adults are particularly vulnerable to the hazards of exposure to unhealthy air.
“Air pollution has been linked to increased cardiovascular and respiratory problems, and even premature death, in older populations, and there is emerging evidence that exposure to particulate air pollution may have adverse effects on brain health and functioning as well.”