If you find that the blistering, unrelenting heat is making you anxious and irritable, even depressed, it’s not all in your head. Soaring temperatures can damage not just the body but also the mind.
As heat waves become more intense, more frequent and longer, it has become increasingly important to address the impact on mental health, scientists say.
“It’s really only been over the past five years that there’s been a real recognition of the impact,” said Dr. Joshua Wortzel, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s committee on climate change and mental health, which was set up just two years ago.
“Our understanding of the basic biology of why this association exists is still in its infancy,” he added.
High temperatures are strongly associated with an increase in suicides, researchers have found. Heat has been linked to a rise in violent crime and aggression, emergency room visits and hospitalizations for mental disorders, and deaths — especially among people with schizophrenia, dementia, psychosis and substance use.
For every 1 degree Celsius (or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) increase in temperature, scientists have estimated that there is a nearly 5 percent increase in the risk of death among patients with psychosis, dementia or substance use. [Continue reading…]