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Climate Crisis

Extreme heat has a surprisingly severe effect on mental health

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For example, one study from the UK that above 18°C, each 1°C increase in temperature is associated with a 3.8% increase in the incidence of suicide, and a 5% increase in the incidence of more violent methods of suicide, which are much more likely to result in death.

Heatwaves undoubtedly bring a certain joy at the opportunity to be out in the sunshine. But as the planet heats and weather records , bouts of baking heat aren’t all sun and games. Aside from the and guilt we may feel about the human causes behind increasingly frequent spells of hot weather, heatwaves can also harm our mental health in hidden but surprisingly severe ways.

Chief among them is their tendency to make our blood boil. Historic studies dating back to the early 19th century found that hotter regions tend to have than cooler regions, and this trend is still echoed . Even within regions, violent behavior is during hotter days, months, seasons and years. This link between heat and aggression holds even when controlling for other factors that affect violent crime rates, such as poverty, unemployment, age distribution and culture.

The mechanisms behind this link are extremely complex to interpret, as many factors are likely to play a part. One is that hotter temperatures the level of stress hormone cortisol in our blood. Similarly, there’s evidence that our bodies produce and when temperatures spike. These changes can lead to an increase in sexual appetite, but can also make aggressive and violent behavior more likely.

Increases in temperature are also consistently associated with increased suicide rates. For example, one study from the UK that above 18°C, each 1°C increase in temperature is associated with a 3.8% increase in the incidence of suicide, and a 5% increase in the incidence of more violent methods of suicide, which are much more likely to result in death. In fact, during the 1995 heatwave in the UK, . results have also been observed in parts of the world.

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