Mental health issues on the rise due to global warming say scientists

Study gives depressing look at how climate change puts Americans’ mental health at risk

He said, "Down the road, we could be more resilient to climate change decades down the road". When the maximum daily temperature averaged 86 degrees Fahrenheit or above, the odds that people would experience poor mental health were 1 percentage point higher than in months when the average high temperature was between 50 and 59 degrees, and 0.5 percentage points higher than when the average high temperature was between 77 and 86 degrees. "Yet for too long, mental health has been mostly an afterthought, despite its overwhelming impacts on communities and young people, everywhere".

For the study, Obradovich and his colleagues combined data from the United States (US) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System, which includes self-reported personal mental health data on almost two million randomly sampled US residents, with daily meteorological data from 2002 through 2012. In months when it rained for over 25 days, there was a rise in mental health problems by 2 percent, they noted when compared to months when there was no precipitation.

For this study, researchers examined the mental health records of 2 million randomly selected United States citizens using data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System between 2002 and 2012, comparing the responses to meteorological and climatic data from the same period. What researchers found was that even a moderate temperature increase could have a negative effect on one's mental well-being. "It is time to act on mental health". If this exact change in temperature were generalized across the nation, "that would produce approximately two million additional individuals reporting mental health difficulties", Obradovich explained. "In that world, the effect between hot temperatures and mental-health outcomes might be reduced". They sorted the participants into four groups according to their income and found that the effect of high temperatures on mental health was 60 percent greater for those at the bottom of the economic ladder than for those at the top.

A team of researchers led by Nick Obradovich of MIT Media Lab found that short-term exposure to extreme weather conditions and tropical cyclones, as well as the multiyear warming around the world, is associated for worsened mental health in Americans.

He said millions of people are caught up in conflict and disasters, putting them at risk of a range of long-term mental health problems.

So, why don't people who live in warmer places generally have worse mental health than people in colder places?

Dr. Jonathan Patz, a professor and director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the study is consistent with recent work by other scientists, including his own research on heat waves and hospital admissions in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, over a 17-year period, he said.

Some people were more vulnerable than others, the researchers found.

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