The Impact of Summer Heat on Physical and Mental Health

Although the effects of weather disasters are well known, altered weather patterns and extreme temperatures still take a heavy toll on our mental and emotional well-being.

By Carlos Roa

It’s no news to anyone that climate change can worsen moods, making people feel much more irritable, sad, and stressed, complicating mental health problems. However, studies prove these problems are much more serious than we think. Florida, of course, is no exception, as the high temperatures we experience in the summer contribute greatly to this phenomenon.

Scientific Facts About Climate Change

Today, more than 25% of the world’s population reports negative feelings, such as sadness, social isolation, and loneliness. In turn, more than 150,000 people between the ages of 15 and 29 die by suicide each year, according to data from the World Health Organization. Although it may seem hard to believe, climate change is a direct threat that can increase these figures.

According to the European Climate and Health Observatory, extreme weather events cause post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, especially extreme temperatures which affect mood and increase the risk of suicide. In addition, emergency psychiatric visits tend to increase during heat waves, as exposed by the World Economic Forum.

In 2022, researchers at the University of Cambridge analyzed 41 studies exploring various types of extreme weather events, in particular, storms, floods, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires. They found that gender-based violence also appears to be exacerbated by extreme weather events.

Going deeper, the impacts of climate change on mental health are not evenly distributed; rather, they disproportionately affect certain groups based on factors including socioeconomic status, gender, and age. This unequal burden exacerbates existing global mental health challenges.

In places as hot as Florida with such extreme summers, the relationship between climate and susceptibility to depression is evident. The data is not very encouraging. According to a recent article published in Climate Central, Florida is experiencing unusually hot conditions. In fact, extreme heat and humidity have arrived earlier than in other years and this is even more dangerous. The article also states that average daily temperatures are expected to reach levels of 5 on the Climate Change Index (CSI) in Central and South Florida.

Because of all this, it is important to take action and raise awareness about ways to protect ourselves.

How to Cope with High Temperatures this Summer

  • Turn on the air conditioner at home. However, not everyone can afford a higher electric bill. In those cases, it is important to stay in the shade to avoid the sun. We can also use electric fans to keep the air circulating, take cool showers, and of course drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. You can also spend time in air-conditioned places during the day, for example, a library.
  • High temperatures negatively affect people taking medications for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar conditions by both altering their ability to sweat and raising the body’s core temperature. Doctors stress the importance of not stopping these medications, as the side effects can be much worse.
  • Do not do exercise that is too strenuous during the hottest hours of the day. If the outside temperature is 83°F or higher, opt for shorter routines or exercise in air-conditioned gyms.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing made of materials like cotton.
  • Do not consume alcoholic beverages or caffeinated beverages because they accelerate fluid loss.

Climate change will generate problems not only mentally, but also economically, agriculturally, socially, among others. The government, businessmen, and organizations, as well as the community in general, must start thinking deeply about the implications in our daily lives and propose urgent action plans to counteract its effects.

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