Last Updated on October 19, 2020
From time to time, even the healthiest and happiest of us have periods when we feel anxious or depressed.
Stress, the most common trigger of these emotions, has always been an inherent part of the human experience, and this holds true today.
In fact, statistics suggest that stressors are more abundant than ever; nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States suffer from a mental health condition.
It’s easy to assume that mental dysfunction, at least in certain forms, is just a byproduct of the demands that come with living in modern society.
But what about times when we can’t consciously pinpoint the cause of these mind states? What about periods of anxiety or sadness that last longer than a few hours or days? Instead of a low mood that passes with life’s changing circumstances, the feeling can last indefinitely, an untraceable heaviness that permeates all other aspects of our lives.
This sort of depression (or anxiety) isn’t uncommon. Worse, it can be difficult to treat without medical intervention, as many factors could be causing or contributing to it: poor nutrition, poor sleeping habits, chemical imbalances in the brain, chronic stress, and physical inactivity all can lead to less-than-optimal brain health.
But there’s another possible culprit that you may not have considered: your daily exposure to EMF (electromagnetic field) radiation emitted by WiFi and our mobile electronic devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
Link Between EMF Radiation Exposure and Mental Health Issues
Though not reported on by the mainstream media, there are now numerous studies confirming a link between high amounts of EMF radiation exposure and negative psychiatric symptoms in both humans and animals.
For example, this Iranian study followed 103 electricians, dividing them into 5 different groups based on potential for exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields. It was found that the group with the highest exposure also had the highest probability of experiencing feelings of depression, psychosis, obsessive-compulsive behavior, hostility, and anxiousness.
Similarly, this 1997 study of 540 adults living near high-voltage transmission lines found that higher doses of EMFs were correlated with symptoms of psychological distress, regardless of each participant’s beliefs about the health effects of exposure.
And this cohort study of roughly 139,000 workers in the electric industry also found a higher incidence of depressive symptoms in the workers who consistently received higher EMF exposure. They also discovered that younger workers with recent exposure, in particular, were at increased risk of committing suicide.
These studies demonstrate an important fact: you don’t have to be a compulsive smartphone addict or a heavy computer user to suffer from the neurological effects of EMF exposure. The subjects in all three studies spent significant time in environments with higher amounts of electromagnetic fields. In today’s world, where the majority of urban and suburban environments are saturated with EMFs, it is likely that many of us are unknowingly affected in the same way these study subjects were.
The case for EMFs posing a threat to the mental health of humans and animals has only become stronger with time.
A review of studies conducted by Martin L. Pall and published in 2015 stated that “Two U.S. government reports from the 1970s to 1980s provide evidence for many neuropsychiatric effects of non-thermal microwave EMFs, based on occupational exposure studies. 18 more recent epidemiological studies provide substantial evidence that microwave EMFs from cell/mobile phone base stations, excessive cell/mobile phone usage and from wireless smart meters can each produce similar patterns of neuropsychiatric effects, with several of these studies showing clear dose–response relationships.”
How Can Electromagnetic Fields Cause Mental Dysfunction in Humans?
Pall’s paper, called “Microwave frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) produce widespread neuropsychiatric effects including depression,” also sheds some light on the mechanisms by which EMFs can cause these unhealthy effects.
One way that EMFs are observed to influence human biochemistry is that they activate voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs). These channels regulate the amount of calcium taken in by multiple types of cells throughout our bodies. A disruption in the delicate intracellular balance of calcium to other ions can in turn wreak havoc on key physiological processes.
“VGCC activation has been shown to have a universal or near universal role in the release of neurotransmitters in the brain and also in the release of hormones by neuroendocrine cells…Both the high VGCC density and their function in neurotransmitter and neuroendocrine release throughout the nervous system suggests that the nervous system is likely to be highly sensitive to low intensity EMFs.“
You’re probably familiar with some of the most well-known neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. A proper balance of these chemicals is vital to a healthy and stable mood, good sleep, motivation, ability to focus, and calming of anxiety.
If these chemical signals are released in the wrong amounts, mind-states like depression or anxiety can become the new normal for us, regardless of how stable our lives are. This is especially true for children and the iGen generation, who are constantly connected to technology in a very vulnerable and developmental period in their lives. Read more about the increase in mental illnesses in kids and teens in our blog post about mental health and technology addiction.
Another neurotransmitter, melatonin, is responsible for regulating our sleep-wake rhythms. It has been established that EMF exposure suppresses the secretion of melatonin by the brain’s pineal gland. As referenced by the cohort study, research from multiple sources shows a relationship between low amounts of melatonin and greater incidence of depression.
EMFs have also been shown to cause unhelpful changes to the central and peripheral nervous system in rodents. In this case, two major tissues that are adversely affected are the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which have the important role of synthesizing and releasing various hormones that are needed for regulating growth, body temperature, hunger/thirst, parental instincts, metabolism, and attachment behaviors.
That isn’t even an exhaustive list.
What’s more, research says that while EMF-related neurological damage is (for the most part) reversible, it may become permanent with chronic, prolonged exposure.
Reducing the Risk
It may seem extraordinary that news of the harmful potential of EMFs hasn’t become common knowledge, but it doesn’t make the threats posed any less real.
If you experience periods of depression, anxiety, or other mental distress, this is something worth following up on, especially if you work and/or live in an environment with high levels of emission.
It’s helpful to know the sources–cell phone towers, high-voltage power lines, smart meters, and of course our mobile electronic devices all contribute to the transmission of EMFs, and that list will only grow with time.
Though it is difficult (if not impossible) to completely avoid all sources, reducing your usage always helps. Others have found relief from EMF-related symptoms by relocating to a less urban space, using ethernet cables versus a WiFi connection, and using EMF-shielding with their devices.
Borrowing a grim but accurate statement made by one of the researchers in the review cited above,
“The primary questions now involve specific exposure parameters, not the reality of complaints or attempts to attribute such complaints to psychosomatic causes, malingering or beliefs in paranormal phenomena.”