Health Problems, Global Warming Linked, Per Study

Leslie Hanson
October 11, 2018

This week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a Special Report on the effect of the world warming 1.5°C or more above pre-industrial levels.

This study echoes (and builds upon) previous research that found an association between heat waves (which are expected to increase in frequency and intensity as a result of climate change) and increased hospital admissions for self-harm and other health concerns. Earlier the scientists had predicted a 2 degrees Celsius rise in earth's temperature could have unsafe consequences. In a new study, researchers found that along with increasing global temperatures comes a corresponding increase in mental-health issues. This could happen 22 years before the 2040 deadline set before, they add. "It is time to act on mental health". This led research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nick Obradovich, to study the effects of climate change on issues such as depression, anxiety and stress. Imagine a world where everyone has access to incredible, scientifically informed mental-health care.

The study analyzed data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a self-reported mental health database of almost 2 million randomly sampled U.S. residents, as well as meteorological data over a 10-year period (from 2002 to 2012). The team then correlated this with the climate changes and noted that when monthly temperatures averaged over 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit or more, the mental health problems also soared when compared to temperatures around 10 to 15 degrees Celsius (50-59 degrees Fahrenheit). Researchers warned that as the earth's temperatures rose, the rain fall also increased due to increased water evaporation.

The study also found that a 1-degree Celsius increase over 5 years - or a 1.8-degree Fahrenheit increase - causes a 2 percent increase in mental health problems. Meanwhile, months with an increase of precipitation can increase the probability of mental health issues by 2 percent. "Yet for too long, mental health has been mostly an afterthought, despite its overwhelming impacts on communities and young people, everywhere". It was found that those who experienced Katrina had a 4 percent more risk of mental health issues. It gives them evidence that hotter temperatures across the U.S. worsen mental health of residents.

The researchers examined the data gleaned from the questions and paired it up with climate data that was local to each respondent. However, according to a new study, the effects of the rising global temperature would not just be environmental. They write that humans could possibly adapt by, "psychological coping mechanisms, such as avoidance, seeking social support, or fostering mental preparedness".

"While the precise magnitude of these climate-induced adversities is hard to estimate, the theoretical relationship between climate change and mental health risk is compelling", the study author notes.

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