Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Scientists have found a direct link between an increase in mental health emergencies and the ever-increasing temperature of the planet, due to the climate crisis. The findings are not specific to an age group, gender or geographical location — everyone is at risk!
A new comprehensive study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, analysed millions of medical records from US citizens. It discovered that on exceptionally hot days, as determined by weather records, there was an average 8% rise in the rate of emergency hospital visits related to mental health issues.
This actual number is expected to be higher since those without health insurance were not included in the study.
The latest research scrutinised data from 3.5 million emergency hospital visits for mental health disorders made by 2.2 million people from 2010 to 2019. The study focused on the warmest months, May to September, and covered 2,775 US counties, accounting for 98% of US citizens.
Patients with all types of mental health conditions, “including stress, mood and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, self-harm, and substance use disorders”, were treated in hospitals across the US in that time period.
Given that both average temperatures and the number of days with extreme heat are increasing, researchers believe that this data can be vital in helping medical professionals predict and prepare for an influx of patients with these specific illnesses.
“Mental health is the unseen impact of climate change at the moment”, Emma Lawrance of Imperial College London, who led the report on “The impact of climate change on mental health and emotional wellbeing”, said. “We need climate mitigation to help prevent worsening of these impacts, and climate adaptation to provide more tree cover and access to green space to prevent urban ‘heat islands’”, she added.
Prof Gregory Gregory Wellenius, of the Boston University School of Public Health in the US and a senior author of the research, says, “this study establishes at an unprecedented scale that days of extreme heat can substantially impact people’s mental health. And this isn’t just for a niche, vulnerable population. This is in every age bracket we looked at, for both men and women, and in every region of the country. Everybody is at risk.”
“Emergency visits to hospitals are the most severe presentations of mental health disorders”, said Prof Amruta Nori-Sarma, first author of the study: “Even small increases in the number of emergency department visits represent a huge burden to the individuals and to the system.”