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Coping with global warming, rising mental issues
13 October 2018, 12:49 | Louis Holland
World Health Organisation
No matter where we live, weather touches each of us daily and the warming effects of climate change go beyond the physical environment.
Published in the journal Nature Climate Change, one study led by Stanford University economist Marshall Burke found that a 1.8-degree Fahrenheit increase in monthly average temperature causes a 0.7 percent increase in suicide rates in the USA and 2.1 percent increase in Mexico.
For the study, Obradovich and his colleagues combined data from the United States (US) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System, which includes self-reported personal mental health data on almost two million randomly sampled US residents, with daily meteorological data from 2002 through 2012.
The CDC data showed that after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast region in August 2005, reports of mental health problems increased in places with declared disasters. In a new study, researchers found that along with increasing global temperatures comes a corresponding increase in mental-health issues. Researchers warned that as the earth's temperatures rose, the rain fall also increased due to increased water evaporation. "We had this nice decade's worth of information about how environmental conditions related to the way people reported their mental health status", Obradovich said. Natural disasters can make that number jump to 4%. "In that world, the effect between hot temperatures and mental-health outcomes might be reduced". "Months with more than 25 days of rain increased the chances of mental health problems by 2%, while temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius led to a 0.5% increase", added Obradovich.
Tarun Dua, mental health expert at WHO, explained: "Half of mental health disorders arise before the age of 14".
In the new study, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab along and Harvard compared temperature changes and mental health issues.
The study also found that a 1-degree Celsius increase over 5 years - or a 1.8-degree Fahrenheit increase - causes a 2 percent increase in mental health problems.
Obradovich also acknowledges the elephant in the room, i.e., that this data raises other questions, like why don't individuals living in warmer places have worse mental health than those who live in colder locales?
Some people were more vulnerable than others, the researchers found. 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. He says that before their study, there was no particular discussion of the impact of climate changes on the mental health.
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