Expect Higher Rates Of Mental Health Issues As Climate Change Becomes More Prevalent, Scientists Say

As temperatures start to rise, the likelihood that the overall population will see a rise in rates of mental health issues will also go up.

A computerized image of a brain and its synopses at work.
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As temperatures start to rise, the likelihood that the overall population will see a rise in rates of mental health issues will also go up.

There are many reasons to worry about the growing threat of climate change in the future. But one study is bringing to light another reason for concern: an increase in rates of mental health issues among the general population.

A study published in the journal PNAS this month detailed how even a small, 1 degree Celsius increase in average global temperatures directly correlated with greater problems for mental health around the world, reported CNN on Monday.

While the study produced evidence for a positive correlation between global warming and mental health issues, the reasoning why wasn’t made immediately clear.

“We don’t exactly know why we see high temperatures or increasing temperatures produce mental health problems,” the lead author of the study, Nick Obradovich, said. “For example, is poor sleep due to hot temperatures the thing that produces mental health problems? We have a lot of work to do to figure out precisely what is causing what.”

The study produced additional findings, including which groups of people would be more susceptible to mental health problems if the world’s climate continued to get warmer. Those with lower incomes, for example, were said to have a higher likelihood of having an increased rate of mental health problems, as were those who already had some amount of issues beforehand. Women’s mental health more than men were found to be affected adversely by global warming, the study added.

To come to the conclusion that it did, the study examined the mental well-being of more than 2 million respondents to a survey conducted from 2002 to 2012 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Individuals were classified as having mental anguish or issues if they reported anything “within the range of stress, anxiety, depression [or] emotional issues,” Obradovich said.

“[This] basically means things that are less extreme than hospitalization and suicide but more significant than like grumpiness or day-to-day emotional [agitation],” he added.

Respondents’ answers were then placed alongside the areas in which they lived and compared against meteorological data that demonstrated whether or not there were temperature changes in their locale over time. The results demonstrated that, as temperatures went up, general mental health problems also went up as well.

The study comes out the same week that another report, issued by the United Nations, suggested that the world may begin to feel the adverse effects of climate change within the next few decades. Food shortages and wildfires, for example, could become more commonplace as a result of climate change, according to reporting from the New York Times.