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News > World

Study: Climate Change Linked to Increased Mental Illness Threat

  • NASA scientists mark average global temperatures from 2005 to 2009.

    NASA scientists mark average global temperatures from 2005 to 2009. | Photo: NASA

Published 10 October 2018

Rising temperatures may instigate a global mental health crisis as studies show hotter weather results in more fighting. 

Research from MIT released in August cross-examined meteorological data with mental health reports from nearly 2 million randomly sampled U.S. residents from 2002 to 2012. Those health reports came from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

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This aligns with previous research that has investigated the correlation between mental health and weather patterns.

The study, conducted by Nick Obradovich and others, outlines that psychological well-being is determined by social, economic and environmental factors. “By disrupting these systems, climate change is likely to exacerbate known risk factors for mental disorders”

“Those with pre-existing mental health conditions and lower socioeconomic status are among the most vulnerable,” according to the research.

"Higher temperatures and higher precipitation rates coincide with periods of poorer mental health," Obradovich says. "We do not know exactly why high temperatures cause mental health problems, but what is clear is that it is a problem that will affect more and more people in the future."

Solomon Hsiang is a co-author on another study linking higher temperatures with increased suicide rates in the U.S. and Mexico.

"We've been studying the effects of warming on conflict and violence for years, finding that people fight more when it's hot. Now we see that in addition to hurting others, some individuals hurt themselves," Hsiang says.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages fifteen to twenty-nine worldwide. Around 800,000 people die from suicide a year, according to data from the World Health Organization

The UN Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that urgent and dramatic action is needed before 2030 to sway catastrophic impacts from rising global temperatures.

“It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now,” said Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC working group on impacts.

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