Study examines how climate change is stressing us out

12 Octobre, 2018, 15:12 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • Study gives depressing look at how climate change puts Americans’ mental health at risk

Worldwide, it is estimated that one in five adolescents experience mental health challenges, though most remain under-diagnosed and untreated.

"While the precise magnitude of these climate-induced adversities is hard to estimate, the theoretical relationship between climate change and mental health risk is compelling", the study author notes.

The study analyzed data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a self-reported mental health database of almost 2 million randomly sampled U.S. residents, as well as meteorological data over a 10-year period (from 2002 to 2012). In this report, respondents had to answer how many days during the last month they felt that their mental health was not very good, including depression, stress, and emotions.

Obradovich and his colleagues used the responses to classify people into two groups: those who reported any recent days with poor mental health, and those who didn't.

The study authors acknowledged that this was a far cry from assessing an individual's true psychiatric state.

Exposure to a month with higher average temperature (over 30 degree C) was associated with more mental health issues.

Other studies have found a connection between suicide rates and temperature. What researchers found was that even a moderate temperature increase could have a negative effect on one's mental well-being. The researchers were also able to determine that the people most vulnerable to these consequences were women with lower incomes and previous mental-health issues.

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Rainy days took a toll as well.

Next, the researchers considered the effect of warming that occurred over the course of several years.

Next, the team analysed longer-term warming and mental health reports in individual cities.

Specifically, the shift from average monthly temperatures between 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) and 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) to averages greater than 30 related to a 0.5 percentage point increase in the probability of mental health difficulties. Meanwhile, in places that weren't affected by the hurricane, the mental health of study participants improved after the storm.

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. "In that world, the effect between hot temperatures and mental-health outcomes might be reduced".

Nick Obradovich, research scientist at the MIT Media Lab and co-author of the new study, warned of "catastrophic" dips in mental health for some if climate change causes the global temperature to increase by 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But there are plenty of possibilities.

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