CURE: Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research: Reaching for the Stars: Exploring the Connection Between Light Pollution and Mental Health in the United States

Reaching for the Stars: Exploring the Connection Between Light Pollution and Mental Health in the United States

CURE: Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research: Reaching for the Stars: Exploring the Connection Between Light Pollution and Mental Health in the United States

Student Presenters

Anthony Infantino, Sarah Paprotna, Siddharth Anilkumar

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Anne Donnelly

College

Center for Undergraduate Research

Abstract

As a possible solution to combat increasing mental health disorders caused by COVID-19, outdoor therapies have been proposed as a safe way to reduce mental illnesses and improve wellbeing. The researchers propose that stargazing could potentially have the same effect. This study focused on regions’ ability to stargaze, which was measured through light pollution. Light pollution, defined as the presence of artificial light in otherwise dark conditions, was gathered from NOAA data. This data uses a unit called radiance, which measures the radiant flux of a surface. Three metrics were used to quantify mental health: the number of people with any mental illness, number of people who attempted suicide, and number of people who received mental health assistance. These metrics allowed mental health to be effectively measured so a relation between light pollution levels and mental health could be determined. The mental health data was gathered from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, who created extrapolated data tables based on the 2018 and 2019 U.S. Census. Data was collected for 10 different states and regions, and then statistically analyzed against the light pollution levels using regression analysis. No conclusions regarding a correlation between the variables can be drawn based on the data; however, further studies could research this gap. Future research should focus on smaller geographical areas and use survey methods to directly measure the population that actively stargazes rather than light pollution in general. 

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