A groundbreaking public health study has found
a connection between damp, moldy homes and depression.
The study, led by Brown University epidemiologist
Edmond Shenassa, is the largest investigation of an
association between mold and mood and is the first
such investigation conducted outside the
Shenassa said the findings, published in the American
Journal of Public Health, came as a complete surprise.
In fact, after a few U.K. studies published in the
last decade had suggested a link, Shenassa and his
skeptical team set out to debunk the notion that
any link existed.
“We thought that once we statistically accounted for
factors that could clearly contribute to depression —
things like employment status and crowding — we would
see any link vanish,” said Shenassa, the lead author
of the study and an associate professor in the
Department of Community Health at Brown.
“But the opposite was true. We found a solid association
between depression and living in a damp, moldy home.”
Shenassa noted the study, an analysis of data from
nearly 6,000 European adults, does not prove that
moldy homes cause depression. The study wasn’t designed
to draw that direct conclusion. However, Shenassa’s
team did find a connection, one likely driven by two
factors. One factor is a perceived lack of control
over the housing environment. The other is mold-related
health problems such as wheezing, fatigue, and a cold
or throat imbalance.
“Physical health, and perceptions of control, are linked
with an elevated risk for depression,” Shenassa said,
“and that makes sense. If you are sick from mold, and
feel you can’t get rid of it, it may affect your mental
The study was a statistical analysis of data from the
Large Analysis and Review of European Housing and Health
Status (LARES), a survey on housing, health, and place
of residence conducted in 2002 and 2003 by the World
Health Organization (WHO). To conduct the survey,
WHO interviewers visited thousands of homes in eight
European cities and asked residents a series of
questions, including if they had depressive symptoms
such as decreased appetite, low self-esteem, and
sleep disturbances. WHO interviewers also made visual
checks of each household, looking for spots on walls
and ceilings that indicate mold.
Shenassa’s team analyzed LARES data from 5,882 adults
in 2,982 households.
“What the study makes clear is the importance of
housing as indicator of health, including mental
health,” Shenassa said. “Healthy homes can promote
Shenassa and his team are conducting follow-up research
to see if mold does, indeed, directly cause depression.
Shenassa said that given the results of the current
study, he wouldn’t be surprised if there is a
Molds emit mycotoxins or acids, and some research has
indicated that these aicid mold toxins can affect the
nervous system or the immune system or impede the
function of the frontal cortex, the part of the brain
that plays a part in impulse control, memory, problem
solving, sexual behavior, socialization, and
According to Dr. Robert O. Young, a research
microbiologist, “yeast and molds are the evidence of
rotting or putrefying matter. The result of rotting
or putrefying matter are the acidic wastes products of
exotoxins and mycotoxins, that can lead to all sickness
For more information on the effects of yeast and mold
on the human organism read, “Sick and Tired” by
Dr. Robert and Shelley Young.
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