Global warming and heat waves are causing mental and physical health problems –

High temperatures associated with climate change are causing extreme health problems, especially among younger populations.


A new report written by 100 experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO), and published in the Lancet Countdown argues that heat waves, as evidenced by global warming, could have a major impact on human health. Experts believe extreme heat not only affects mental health, but contributes to the spread of disease, including the coronavirus.

“While some impacts of record high temperatures may be more expected – such as increased illness from exposure to heat waves and extremely high temperatures – other impacts, such as increased risk of mental health problems and increased spread of infections are less evident. effects that can have global impacts,” the report says.

“Climate change is affecting people’s mental health through a variety of different pathways,” said Dr Marina Romanello, executive director of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change report. “Some are more obvious and easily attributable, such as the profound mental health impacts of disasters related to extreme weather events. However, the impacts of climate change on mental health can also stem from, for example, exposure to extreme heat, which has been associated in the literature with increased interpersonal violence, crime and self-harm. . Heat waves have actually been directly associated with an increase in suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The main cause of climate change in recent years has been the use of fossil fuels, which has also caused more and more air pollution, contributing to more than “1 million deaths in 2020”, according to the report.

Climate change greatly affects children, adolescents and young adults, the team found. These groups of people are already more likely to develop mental health conditions, and high heat can cause symptoms more quickly. The group found that temperature is associated with the onset of mental health problems and subsequent drug and alcohol use as well as sleep disturbances.

“Eighty-four percent of young people are moderately to extremely anxious about climate change,” explained Dr. Elizabeth Haase, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Committee on Climate Change and Mental Health. “With the continued stresses that follow extreme weather, there is more drug and alcohol abuse, more child abuse and domestic violence, more poverty, poorer diets, increased homelessness, fractured families and communities.”

Heat-related deaths among those over 65 increased by almost “70% from 2000-2004 to 2017-2021”, experts have found. It is well known that very high temperatures can lead to heat stroke, kidney damage and aggravation of existing heart and lung conditions.

“The acceleration health impact of climate change has become increasingly evident. It has devastating health effects,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “New Lancet report further documents the devastation that climate change is causing to the world’s population.

Experts cite that more needs to be done to tackle climate change. The measures taken so far are simply not enough.

“The health sector response to date has been inadequate and needs to be scaled up significantly as global health is in immediate peril,” Benjamin said.

The large-scale report is intended to draw attention to this issue and encourage legislatures, advocates and others to take action.

“This clearly shows that we are not preparing to face and minimize the expected increase in mental health impacts of climate change,” Romanello said.

Sources:

Growing global warming puts human health at risk, major report warns

More diseases, more suicides: a study shows the human cost of climate change

How heat waves harm mental health

Teresa H. Sadler