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Mold Exposure and Depression


Mold is clearly something you don’t want living in your home (see Mold Exposure in Children or You vs. Mold). We all know that it can have detrimental effects on your physical health, as well as the health of your home. What you may not have considered, is the effect that living in a moldy environment may have on your mental health.

In 2007, a Brown University study set out to find some answers on the effect that mold can have on your health. Edmond Shenessa, the lead researcher of the study, was inspired by recent research that shown there was indeed a correlation between the two. Shenessa remained skeptical of these studies and wanted to see the results for himself.

The Brown University study was completed as a statistical analysis based on the Large Analysis and Review of European Housing (LARES). The LARES is a large survey conducted by the World Health Organization in 2002 and 2003. Topics include housing, health and place of residence.

The LARES survey was given out across 8 European cities, with the participants in each city being selected randomly from local registries. Overall, 5,282 adults participated in 2,982 households. Once a home was selected, a trained interviewer visited to provide an assessment of the mold conditions in the home as well as the resident’s health. To categorize mold, signs of dampness and mold growth were rated on an index by the interviewer. The health questions looked for clues on depressive symptoms, decreased appetite, or sleep disturbance over the previous 2 weeks. Those who displayed more than 3 symptoms were classified as depressed. Depression could also be determined if the resident had been diagnosed by a physician in the last 12 months. Residents also completed a health survey and a housing conditions questionnaire.

After analysing the results, it was shown that 40% of the residents lived in visibly moldy, and damp houses. These people had a 34%-44% higher chance of being depressed when compared to people living in non-moldy homes.The results of the study were consistent with prior studies and show that there is indeed a link between mold and mental health. Researchers believe this is linked to two factors. First, deteriorating physical health symptoms caused by mold such as wheezing, and fatigue. Secondly, the perceived lack of control over housing. Both of these factors are shown to lead to a higher risk of depression.

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Brown University. "Household Mold Linked To Depression." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 August 2007. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070829162815.htm.
Potera, Carol. “Molding a Link to Depression.” Environmental Health Perspectives, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Nov. 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/ PMC2072855/
Shenassa, Edmond D, et al. “Dampness and Mold in the Home and Depression: an Examination of Mold-Related Illness and Perceived Control of One's Home as Possible Depression Pathways.” American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, Oct. 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1994167/.