Study examines how climate change is stressing us out

Grant Boone
October 13, 2018

Half of all mental disorders begin at the adolescent age - before the age of 14 - but most cases go undetected and untreated, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

In fact, the research reports that short-term exposure to more extreme weather - like getting increasingly hotter over time - and tropical cyclone exposure can be associated with a decline in mental health.

Between 2002 and 2012, almost 2 million participants were asked this question: "Now thinking about your mental health, which includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions, for how many days during the past 30 days was your mental health not good?" Using recent national meteorological data as well as mental health data from the CDC, the study's authors found that a one-degree Celsius increase in average temperature was linked to a two percentage point increase in the public prevalence of mental-health issues over a five-year period. "There are many other place-specific factors that may moderate the effect". Based on this data, the researchers at Stanford University linked the temperature to a higher rate of depressive tweets and an increase in suicides in both the USA and Mexico. 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. They called for more studies in the "regions with less-temperate climates, insufficient resources, and a greater reliance on ecological systems" and predicted that these regions may have more "severe effects of climate change on mental health". Also, the way the question was worded allowed the researchers to identify people who were experiencing mental distress even if they hadn't sought professional health, they wrote. The group of scientists gathered the data and made large-scale quantification of risks for mental health made by climate change.

The data also reveals that the risk of mental health related issues is more likely to affect people with low incomes and women as compared to men.

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Next, the team analysed longer-term warming and mental health reports in individual cities. Meanwhile, months with an increase of precipitation can increase the probability of mental health issues by 2 percent.

For this study, researchers examined the mental health records of 2 million randomly selected USA 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.

Other studies have found a connection between suicide rates and temperature. He warned that a 2 degree Celsius rise can push human mental health over the edge.

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