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The effect of climate change on mental health

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

Girl sitting on chair, blankly staring outside window

For many years, climate change has led to extreme global changes in the weather. However, the situation has become worse as storms, floods, and other natural disasters happen more frequently. They have taken more lives than ever before, leading to more people experiencing trauma and loss. Those people develop serious mental health issues, such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), depression, or substance use disorders.

The drastic changes in weather have an impact on economic and social aspects of mental health such as homelessness, unemployment, food and water insecurity, and much more. This, in turn, can have a detrimental effect on one's mental health.

This issue can be observed through the rise of global temperatures. Emergency visits to the psychiatrist's office have increased exponentially during extreme heat waves. Suicide rates are also shown to be much higher during warmer weather.

Heat can also disrupt sleep, and bad sleep can affect mental health. Getting less than the recommended 8 hours of sleep can increase anxiety and depression. According to The Lancet, one study observed over ten billion sleep observations concluded that warm nights negatively affect human sleep. This was seen especially in low income areas, where they are three times more likely to experience sleep deprivation, leading to extreme health issues.

The air quality also has an equal effect on mental health as the concentration of pollutants and allergens increases. Poor air quality can lead to severe depression and anxiety for older citizens. According to The Lancet, a study conducted with people 65+ in Medicare demonstrated that short exposure to pollutants resulted in higher risk of acute hospitalization for psychiatric disorders. These issues can be observed globally as similar studies in the UK yield the same results.

Climate change can be observed anywhere around the world, but especially affects certain groups of people. People in low income communities experience the most economic and social disasters on a daily basis such as lack of food, water, and homelessness. This can easily cause stress and anxiety for those people. Younger people, women, and older adults are also at risk of extreme mental health issues.

These issues can be solved through our own day-to-day actions. Using an alternative mode of transportation such as walking, biking, or taking the train can lift up your mood through physical activity. Not only do these actions promote self-care, but also help our environment. Climate change is the root cause of these mental health problems, so the world must tackle this in order to lessen the overall effects on our health.

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