Weather and Mental Health: Heatwaves Can Create Mental Harm

hot weather and mental health appear to be linked, and this searing sun should help explain why

We’ve reached that time of year – the middle of summer – when the country seems to heat up to hard-to-endure levels for weeks on end. Heatwaves are extremely common in July and August, and so far this year has been no exception. We are in the throes of another very hot summer, and this is something that takes its toll on people in countless ways. We’ve all seen the physical harm that heatwaves can inflict on people, particularly those who may be older and more vulnerable to them. However, what about any link between hot weather and mental health? Does that exist?

The answer to that question appears to be yes, based on a recent report. There is a potential link between hot weather and mental health, and heatwaves can exact a mental toll on people who suffer through them. Our team at SoCal Empowered has helped those who have suffered from innumerable different types of mental health problems. Below we’d like to discuss this report and provide some ideas regarding how to ease the risks inherent in the link between this extreme weather and mental health.

The Report Regarding Hot Weather and Mental Health

The report that’s generating quite a bit of response was published recently in Grid News. Over the past month, an incendiary heatwave in Europe led to the deaths of over 2,000 people in Spain and Portugal. That put the heat back in the news for obvious reasons, and that number didn’t even include the rest of Europe, which was also scorching. As one would expect, the main causes of these deaths were dehydration and heatstroke, but as the report linked here indicates, the link between hot weather and mental health also leads to consequences.

However, the report also delves into previous studies that focus on the link between hot weather and mental health. One cited study, published in JAMA, or the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that on the hottest of days in the United States, emergency room visits increased by as much as 8 percent for reasons that included schizophrenia, anxiety and other forms of mental illness.

Another study that was perhaps even more troubling was published in Nature Climate Change. That study looked at suicide rates in counties across the United States and Mexico. The results indicated that for every degree Celsius above the average at the time, suicides increased by a factor of 1 to 2 percent. Clearly, this was a troubling trend and only added to the urgency relating both to the link between weather and mental health and increasing heat across the world.

Why Is a Link Between Hot Weather and Mental Health Emerging?

First, we should note that the increased heat in recent years is not necessarily the first link between weather and mental health in general. Instead, it’s the first of this type. For some time now, the psychiatric world has recognized a condition known as SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Also known as Seasonal Depression, this mental health challenge involves people encountering depressive periods that typically arise in late fall as the calendar turns towards winter. The symptoms of SAD also tend to dissipate as spring arrives.

What this latest report regarding hot weather and mental health indicates is that when extreme weather arrives, it adds to the stress levels of people who may already be suffering from underlying mental health challenges. After all, extreme heat is dangerous. It can quickly lead to long-term harm or worse, as we have all seen.

Not to mention, the number of heatwaves occurring across the planet is increasing rapidly. We will leave the discussion regarding climate change to climate scientists, but these specific numbers reveal that heatwaves have increased by a factor of at least 100 in recent years. Forbes Magazine recently published an article detailing this phenomenon.

Given the rising number of heatwaves and the apparent correlation between hot weather and mental health, it should ultimately not be that surprising that the number of people suffering in this regard is increasing as the overall number of heatwaves also rises precipitously. As one problem worsens, so does the other.

Minimizing the Link Between Weather and Mental Health

We are all facing the growing problem of the link between hot weather and mental health. As is the case with many other things, there are some strategies that you can employ that may help minimize the effects of the heat on your overall mental state. A few of these include:

  • Proper hydration – This is the most obvious response to searing heat, but in addition to helping you physically, maintaining proper hydration levels in heat can help protect your brain function. This can, by result, help you either avoid or at least minimize the appearance of mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression.
  • Protect your sleep – This may be easier said than done for a lot of people, but making sure you get a sufficient amount of sleep can also help your body ward off some of the effects of intense heat. This can be difficult for those without air conditioning, but other steps you can take include opening your home up during the cooler hours, sleeping during this time and then “sealing off” your home before the temperature begins to rise. That will at least slow the process of rising temperatures inside your home.
  • Avoid unnecessary exposure – Finally, if you’re in a position where you don’t have to go outside in extreme heat, don’t. Stay home or in your office/somewhere indoors and safe for as much and as long as possible. Even a few degrees of difference in temperature can make all the difference in how your body and mind deal with this situation.

How SoCal Empowered Can Help

The good news regarding hot weather is that eventually, it passes in most places. However, the link between hot weather and mental health appears to be relatively strong as we begin to study it, and given recent trends it could be a challenge that’s here to stay. For those who are suffering from extreme mental health difficulties, there is help available.

All you need to do to find out how you can obtain this help is to contact our team at SoCal Empowered. We will listen to your situation and help you find the best possible resolution, whether that involves a stay with us or not. Reach out to us today to get the input and help you need and deserve.