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

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. It was found that those who experienced Katrina had a 4 percent more risk of mental health issues.

In a landmark study published this Monday (8th October 2018) in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers have said that global warming could take a serious toll on mental health of humans. What researchers found was that even a moderate temperature increase could have a negative effect on one's mental well-being. The changing climate and the frequency of natural disaster will further cause distress to Americans.

Especially significant given the dire United Nations climate change report is the authors' finding that people affected by Hurricane Katrina had a 4 percent higher prevalence of mental-health issues than people in comparably sized communities who had not experienced a natural disaster. The survey involved an assessment of the participants' mental health over the course of 10 years (from 2002 to 2012).

Respondents were asked to answer the following: "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?" However, "there are many other place-specific factors that may moderate the effect".

The researchers extrapolated that over a 30-day period, a shift of monthly temperature from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius to greater than 30 degrees Celsius would produce 2 million individuals who suffer from mental health issues. 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.

Other studies have found a connection between suicide rates and temperature. The authors explain that yearly warming climates, short term exposure to extremes of weather as well as routine exposure to cycles could have a detrimental effect on the mental health of individuals.

Finally, the team examined mental health reports from people affected by Hurricane Katrina and compared them to reports from people in comparable-sized places that had not been affected by the catastrophic hurricane.

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. He says that before their study, there was no particular discussion of the impact of climate changes on the mental health.

  • Delores Daniels