When you search on Google for what the air pollution in Southeast Asia countries at present (time of writing) is like, you will find that the annual Air Quality Life Index published by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) has reported that particulate pollution in South Asia has increased by 9.7% from 2013 to 2021. 

This is contributing to an additional six months’ reduction in life expectancy for the region’s residents. In this light, Real Research decided to do some digging and did a survey on the topic ‘Southeast Asians’ life span shortening due to air pollution’ to know the public’s opinion on it.


  • 30.05% believed China faced the highest levels of air pollution.
  • 22.50% saw industrialization and urbanization as the major contributors to air pollution.
  • 27.80% supported cleaner and renewable energy sources to reduce the impact of air pollution on life expectancy.

Air pollution in South Asia

Despite improvements in China, air pollution in Southeast Asian countries continues to pose the greatest external risk to human health. According to the survey conducted by Real Research, a majority of respondents (74.11%) are aware of this issue, recognizing the substantial external risk it poses. However, there’s still a notable percentage (25.89%) who may not be fully informed about the extent of this problem.

Figure 1: Responses to countries with the highest rates of air pollution

The annual Air Quality Life Index’s (AQLI) report by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) states that nearly three-quarters of the health impacts from air pollution are felt more acutely in just six countries: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, China, Nigeria, and Indonesia.

We were curious about people’s perceptions regarding which of these countries faced the highest levels of air pollution. Here’s what we found: 11.74% believed it was Bangladesh, 19.88% thought India had the highest rates, 8.68% pointed to Pakistan, a significant 30.05% felt it was China, 15.19% identified Nigeria, and 14.46% believed Indonesia faced the highest levels.

Air pollution across other Southeast Asian countries

Real Research wanted to understand why respondents believed the mentioned countries bore the brunt of air pollution.

This is what they had to say: 14.57% attributed it to rapid economic development in these areas, 17.97% pointed to high population density, 22.50% saw industrialization and urbanization as major factors, 18.30% highlighted a lack of stringent regulations to combat air pollution, 9.83% believed it was due to a heavy reliance on polluting energy sources like coal, 7.12% pointed to emissions from vehicles, 5.14% cited limited access to cleaner energy alternatives, and 4.31% of respondents attributed it to agricultural and farming practices leading to emissions. A small fraction, 0.25%, mentioned other factors.

Figure 2: Responses on reasons why countries apart from China are not able to lower their pollution levels

The report highlights an interesting trend: while China has managed to lower its pollution levels, air pollution in Southeast Asia is facing a different story.

Through our survey, we wanted to know why respondents think certain regions are struggling to make progress in improving air quality. 26.09% pointed to a strong emphasis on economic growth and urbanization, 27.54% cited a lack of financial and technical resources for effective pollution control policies, 14.71% saw inadequate infrastructure for waste management, transportation, and energy as a key factor, 9.67% believed rapid urbanization and industrial activity played a significant role, 6.78% mentioned a lack of effective political governance, 6.43% highlighted the use of inefficient energy sources, 8.57% felt there was weak enforcement of environmental policies, and a small percentage, 0.21%, mentioned other contributing factors.

Impact of Air Pollution on Life Expectancy

We asked the public about their personal experiences or observations that shed light on how air pollution affects health or quality of life. A significant majority, 68.74%, shared that they have had first-hand experiences or witnessed such impacts. A smaller portion, 31.26%, reported not having had such experiences.

Figure 3: Responses to actions to be taken to increase life expectancy.

Air pollution in Southeast Asia has reached PM2.5 levels, impacting life expectancy. Real Research wanted to know what actions respondents believed should be taken to address this pressing issue.

23.12% emphasized the importance of enforcing strict air quality standards in line with WHO recommendations, 27.80% advocated for the promotion of cleaner energy sources like natural gas as well as the expansion of renewable options such as solar and wind power, 13.32% highlighted the need to encourage the use of electric or energy-efficient vehicles, 11.03% stressed the importance of implementing strict emission regulations for industries, 9.41% saw the establishment of effective waste management systems as a crucial step, 7.87% proposed initiatives like deforestation and the creations of green spaces with trees and plants, 7.26% believed in providing incentives for individuals and businesses to making efforts to combat air pollution—a meager 0.19% mentioned other potential strategies.

Real Research asked respondents their perceptions of whether the issue of air pollution in Southeast Asia is getting the attention it deserves on a global level. 57.01% believe that it is receiving adequate attention on a global scale. On the other hand, 42.99% expressed the view that no, it’s not getting the attention it needs on a global level.


Survey TitleSurvey on Air Pollution in Southeast Asia
DurationSep 3, 2023 – Sep 10, 2023
Number of Participants10,000
DemographicsMales and females, aged 21 to 99
Participating Countries Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, China (Hong Kong) China (Macao), China (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Greanada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Maldives, Maluritania, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar [Burma], Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.