Long-term ozone exposure and cognitive impairment among Chinese older adults: A cohort study

Environ Int. 2022 Feb;160:107072. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2021.107072. Epub 2022 Jan 1.


Ambient particulate matter pollution has been linked to impaired cognitive performance, but the effect of ambient ozone exposure on cognitive function remains largely unknown. We examined the association of long-term ozone exposure with the risk of cognitive impairment among a national representative cohort of 9,544 Chinese older adults (aged 65 years and over) with baseline normal cognition from the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (2005-2018). The ozone exposure of each participant was measured by annual mean ozone concentrations for the county of residence. Cognitive function was assessed by the Chinese version of the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). We defined cognitive impairment as an MMSE score below 18 points accompanied by an MMSE score that declined ≥ 4 points from baseline. Cox proportional hazards models were applied to explore the association of ozone exposure with cognitive impairment. During the mean follow-up time of 6.5 years, 2,601 older adults developed cognitive impairment. Each 10-μg/m3 increase in annual mean ozone exposure was associated with a 10.4% increased risk of cognitive impairment. The exposure-response relationship between ozone exposure and risk of cognitive impairment showed a linear trend. Sensitivity analyses revealed the association to be robust. We found that older adults from Eastern, Central, and Southern China were particularly susceptible. Our results show that ozone is a risk factor for late-life cognitive decline. Reducing ambient ozone pollution may help delay the onset of cognitive impairment among older adults.

Keywords: Cognitive impairment; Cohort study; Long-term exposure; Older adults; Ozone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / chemically induced
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Mental Status and Dementia Tests
  • Ozone* / analysis
  • Ozone* / toxicity


  • Ozone