Science Inventory

Environmental Quality Index and Childhood Mental Health


Grabich, S., C. Gray, L. Messer, J. Jagai, K. Rappazzo, AND D. Lobdell. Environmental Quality Index and Childhood Mental Health. Society for Epidemiologic Research, Denver, CO, June 16 - 19, 2015.


This abstract demonstrates the utility of the Environmental Quality Index in assessing environmental exposures related to childhood mental health.


Childhood mental disorders affect between 13%-20% of children in the United States (US) annually and impact the child, family, and community. Literature suggests associations exist between environmental and children’s mental health such as air pollution with autism and ADHD and sociodemographic status and depression. To better understand the relationship between cumulative environmental health and childhood mental disorders we estimated associations between environmental quality and county-level prevalence of childhood mental disorders. Environmental exposure was defined using a novel county-level environmental quality index (EQI), which was developed for all US counties from 2000-2005 representing five environmental domains: air, water, land, built, and sociodemographic. We linked the EQI to childhood (age 5-15) mental disability (having difficulty learning, remembering, or concentrating) from the 2005 American Community Survey (ACS) for 649 metropolitan US counties. Linear regression models estimated mental disability prevalence differences (PD [95% CI]) for increases in EQI quintiles, stratified by male and female. We found an unexpected negative relationship comparing the lowest and highest quintiles of environmental quality and mental disorder prevalence: as environmental quality worsened, mental disability prevalence decreased (cumulative EQI PD = (-1.43% [-2.25%, -0.63%]). This was consistent across all five domains. There were differences between sex (cumulative EQI: male (-2.18% [-3.38%, -0.98%]); female (-0.59% [-1.35%, 0.17%]). Counterintuitive results could be related to ACS definition of mental disability, self-report biases, and only using a subset (20%) of US counties. Next steps include examining grouped psychiatric conditions from insurance claims data for all US counties. This abstract does not necessarily reflect EPA policy.

Record Details:

Product Published Date: 06/19/2015
Record Last Revised: 06/24/2015
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 308254