A team of researchers has warned that there is a link between the recent extreme heat around the world due to climate change and the increase in mental health cases.
Led by Boston University School of Public Health researchers, the scientists announced that there is a correlation between extreme heat and the increase in cases of substance abuse, anxiety and stress.
The researchers in the ‘case-crossover study’ urged clinicians to expect to see an increase in patients requiring mental health services during the summer seasons.
The case-crossover study used medical claims data obtained from OptumLabs Data Warehouse to identify claims for Emergency Department visits with a primary or secondary discharge psychiatric diagnosis during warm-season months (May to September) from 2010 through 2019.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, found that days of extreme heat were associated with an Incidence Rate Ratio of 1.08 for Emergency Department (ED) visits for any mental health condition.
‘Associations between extreme heat and ED visits were found for specific mental health conditions, including substance use disorders, anxiety, stress-related, and somatoform disorders, mood disorders, schizophrenia, schizotypal, and delusional disorders, self-harm and childhood-onset behavioral disorders’, they noted.
They added that the associations were, however, higher among men.
The researchers said it is possible that the association between extreme heat and exacerbation of symptoms for many mental and behavioral disorders is not limited to ED visits but may also include a broader group of people with mental health conditions that may not require emergency care.
‘During and following periods of high temperature, mental health and emergency care practitioners may consider increasing capacity to provide necessary mental health services.
‘This consideration is particularly important given the potential for climate change to increase both the frequency and severity of extreme temperatures, which may further increase demand for clinical services related to mental health and may also lead to increased direct emotional responses such as anxiety’.
While the study has some limitations, the researchers concluded that its results suggest that there was an association between elevated ambient temperature and ED visits for any mental health condition and specific mental health diagnoses.
‘This finding could aid clinicians who provide mental health services in preparing for increases in health service needs when the high ambient temperature is anticipated.
‘Further research could investigate the implications of sustained periods of extreme heat (heat waves) for health outcomes and continue to investigate the association among different populations.
‘In addition, future work could characterise the implications of elevated temperatures during cold periods for mental health outcomes and the consequences of additional meteorological characteristics and multiple extreme weather events that may occur with elevated ambient temperature or may be triggered by periods of extreme heat’, the researchers stated.
Reacting to the study, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Psychiatry at the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos, Dr Charles Umeh, however, said there may not be a direct link between extreme heat and increase in mental health conditions but there may be an indirect link.
‘The link may be indirect because some people may not be able to cope with extreme heat, they may find the heat period uncomfortable.
‘Some people can’t cope with the distress associated with an extreme heat and so it might lead to mental health issues’, Umeh said.
Copyright: Punch’s Healthwise