Air Pollution and Successful Aging: Recent Evidence and New Perspectives

Abstract

Purpose of Review

Worldwide demographic changes occurring in a relatively short period have led to a growing interest in the determinants of aging “successfully” and how to promote a healthier old age. As environmental exposures such as ambient air pollution are believed to play a role in the process of aging, they might represent one of the pathways turning potential successful agers to unsuccessful agers. We aimed to critically review the current epidemiological evidence of the associations between chronic exposure to ambient air pollution and several key determinants of unsuccessful aging and to identify specific populations of unsuccessful agers that are potentially more vulnerable to air pollution’s health effects.

Recent Findings

Epidemiologic evidence supports the association between air pollution and increased risk for several major chronic diseases, cognitive impairment, frailty, and decreased longevity—all important determinants of unsuccessful aging—as well as evidence for higher vulnerability among frail populations. However, several methodological shortcomings, including possible publication bias, lack of use of an adequate indicator of unsuccessful aging, limitations in exposure assessment, and residual confounding particularly due to socioeconomic status, hinder inference of causal relationship at this stage.

Summary

Future studies should use constructs such as frailty index to estimate successful aging, as well as integrate time activity patterns into the exposure assessment metric. Additionally, studies in low- and middle-income countries are needed.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by Research Grant Award No. PGA 1401 from the Environment and Health Fund, Israel. This work was performed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Ph.D. degree of Gali Cohen, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Israel.

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Correspondence to Yariv Gerber.

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Gali Cohen and Yariv Gerber declare they have no conflict of interest.

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Cohen, G., Gerber, Y. Air Pollution and Successful Aging: Recent Evidence and New Perspectives. Curr Envir Health Rpt 4, 1–11 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40572-017-0127-2

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Keywords

  • Chronic exposure to air pollution
  • Successful aging
  • Susceptible populations
  • Frailty