Climate-Change Heatwaves Will Cause Mental Health Crises in Miami, Study Warns

Climate-Change Heatwaves Will Cause Mental Health Crises in Miami, Study Warns

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.

More specifically, the study determined that there was a 0.5 increase in mental health difficulties for people in a month that averaged over 86 degrees Fahrenheit when compared to a month with an average between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to the L.A. Times, the team led by MIT data scientist Nick Obradovich asked nearly two million people this question between 2002 and 2012: "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?"

He said: "Poor mental health during adolescence has an impact on educational achievement and increases the risk of alcohol and substance use and violent behaviour". What researchers found was that even a moderate temperature increase could have a negative effect on one's mental well-being. "We had this nice decade's worth of information about how environmental conditions related to the way people reported their mental health status", Obradovich said. They said they singled out this type of natural disaster because climate change is expected to make these storms more frequent and more intense. The researchers found that women and people in the low-income demographic are more apt to develop mental health issues because of climate change, for example.

"Generally what we found was that exposure to hotter temperatures and more precipitation increased the reporting of mental health problems".

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On the heels of a United Nations report that warned we have until 2030 to stop climate change from raising temperatures above a key threshold, another study found that the increasing heat could also lead to a decline to mental health.

In fact, a 1-degree C change - or a 1.8-degree F increase - could cause a 2 percent increase in mental health problems in just five years.

Other studies have found a connection between suicide rates and temperature.

While all three factors were significantly associated with worse mental health, there was a clear hierarchy among them - hurricanes were the worst, followed by long-term warming and short-term temperature changes. Experiencing Katrina was linked to a four percentage point increase in the prevalence of mental health problems. The author of that study, Dr. Jonathan Patz, a professor and director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told CNN that, if anything, he expects the newer study underestimates the "stress and despair" likely to be caused by government inaction in the face of climate change.

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