2018/10/15: Previous studies have looked at climate change’s impact on mood and on suicide. However, there hasn’t been much research between those extremes, says Nick Obradovich, the lead author on the study and a researcher at MIT’s Media Lab. To capture that middle ground, Obradovich and his team used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s collected responses to the question: “Now thinking about your mental health, which includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions, for how many days during the past 30 days was your mental health not good?”
They found that when the average monthly temperature in already hot places got even hotter — shifting from 77-86 degrees F to above that range — there was a 0.5 percent increase in self-reported mental health issues. It sounds small, but if extrapolated across the current U.S. population over a 30-day period, that increase would lead to almost 2 million additional individuals reporting mental health difficulties.
The systems we have in place aren’t equipped to handle this influx of mental health issues, says psychiatrist Elizabeth Haase, another member of the Climate Psychiatry Alliance. She says it may require rethinking and restructuring our mental health care system, with an emphasis on community-based and value-based health care, where medical professionals are paid based on outcome.