Newspaper article

Hotter Weather Linked to Increased Stress and Other Psychological Problems

Newspaper article

Hotter Weather Linked to Increased Stress and Other Psychological Problems

Article excerpt

With all the stress and anxiety we’re experiencing during this coronavirus pandemic, perhaps we should be grateful that it’s also not hot outside. For according to a new study published last week in the journal PLOS One, Americans are more likely to report stress, depression and other psychological problems when temperatures climb above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

The study also found that Americans are less likely to report such problems when temperatures fall below 20 F.

“In general, the probability of reporting mental health difficulties decreases with cooler days and increases with hotter days,” the authors of the study conclude.

Interestingly, the longer the hot days continue, the more likely they’ll have a negative effect on mental health. That wasn’t true of the cold days.

“Hotter temperatures really tend to get to people after about 10 consecutive days, while cooler days have an immediate effect,” explain two of the study’s authors, Susana Ferreira and Travis Smith, in an article they wrote about the research for the Conversation. Both are professors of economics at the University of Georgia.

Global warming has given a new impetus to research on the impact of ambient temperatures on mental health. In recent years, a growing body of scientific literature has reported that rising temperatures are associated have a negative effect on mental health, including an association with higher rates of suicide.

As background information in the current study points out, since 1880, the average global temperature has risen by about 1.4 degrees F, with most of that increase having taken place during the past 40 years. Nineteen of the 20 warmest years have all occurred since 2001.

“The promotion of mental health has — for the first time — been included in the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda as a goal to be reached by 2030,” write Ferreira and Smith. “In a rapidly warming world, temperature increases pose a challenge to achieving that goal of ‘good health and well-being.’”

“Our study attempted to gauge the magnitude of that challenge by quantifying the effect of temperature on self-reported mental health,” they add.

How the study was done

For their study, the researchers used data on 3 million Americans who participated between 1993 and 2010 in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), an ongoing state-based system of health surveys conducted annually under the direction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One of the survey questions ask participants to provide the number of days during the previous month when, because of stress, depression or other negative emotions, they felt their mental health was not good. …

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