A recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry has found that hot weather is associated with an increase in mental health emergencies. The study revealed that emergency rooms see a higher number of visits for anxiety, mood disorders, stress, and substance use during hotter weather. Additionally, research has shown that violent crime rates also tend to increase in the summer. Experts suggest that this correlation between heat and mental health emergencies may be due to the stress caused by extreme heat.
According to clinical professor Kim Gorgens, the feeling of a loss of control over the situation can have a negative impact on mental health. The prolonged and inescapable heat, especially in areas with weak air conditioning, can create ongoing stress and fatigue, leading to irritability and even depression. Sleep disturbances caused by the heat can further worsen mood and well-being.
One factor that cannot be discounted is the anxiety surrounding climate change. The fear and anxiety about the future and the impact of extreme weather events can contribute to mental distress. People may find themselves questioning the impact of climate change on their children, grandchildren, and the environment, which can be a significant source of stress.
Certain populations, such as those with mental health conditions and physical health comorbidities, are at a higher risk of negative outcomes during heatwaves. The inequities in society also play a role, as individuals in marginalized communities may have limited access to air conditioning or suitable spaces to escape the heat, increasing their vulnerability.
While there is some research indicating that acts of kindness and altruism increase during heatwaves, the majority of research points to the negative impact of heat on mental health.
To prioritize mental health during heatwaves, experts recommend being self-aware of how the heat is impacting you and finding ways to take back control. This can include adjusting your routine to accommodate indoor activities or finding alternative ways to exercise. Additionally, engaging in stress-relieving activities, such as spending time with friends or engaging in hobbies, can help alleviate the negative effects of heat on mental health.
It's also essential to reach out to those who may be more vulnerable during heatwaves, such as elderly individuals or those with mental health struggles. Offering support and checking in on them can make a significant difference in their well-being.
In conclusion, hot weather can have a detrimental impact on mental health, leading to an increase in mental health emergencies and mood disorders. It's crucial to be aware of these potential effects and take steps to prioritize mental well-being during heatwaves.