Extreme temperatures due to climate change may increase hospitalizations and deaths related to health issues like dementia, depression and epilepsy, according to a new study, which adds to previous research that found climate change has negative effects on human health.

  • The researchers looked at several nervous system conditions—including dementia, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, stroke and migraine—and psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, depression and anxiety, according to the study published Wednesday in the Lancet Neurology.
  • The risk of dying from a stroke and dementia increases with higher temperatures, while both extreme hot and cold temperatures are associated with a greater mortality risk for many mental health disorders like depression.
  • Researchers also found that as temperatures increase, hospitalizations related to dementia, migraines, several mental health disorders and multiple sclerosis also increase.
  • Dementia patients are more susceptible to harms of extreme hot and cold temperatures—like hypothermia and heat-related illnesses—and severe weather events because cognitive impairment limits their ability to adapt to environmental changes, according to the study.
  • The researchers believe several factors, including pollution, increased humidity and reduced sunshine exposure all impact mental health disorders, while neurological disorders and their treatments make it harder for the body to adapt to changing temperatures.
  • In order to manage, the study suggests patients with these disorders may have to adopt new behaviors to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as drinking more water, avoiding exercise while it’s hot or using more treatments.

KEY BACKGROUND

In addition to mental health and neurological disorders, health effects of climate change include worsened respiratory issues, heart disease, and increased risk of West Nile Virus, Lyme disease and water- and food-born illnesses. Since extreme weather events increase with climate change, health effects related to these events—including death, asthma and frostbite—falso increase, with different regions of the country being affected by climate change differently. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts the Midwest will have the largest increase in extreme temperature-related premature deaths than any other region, and the Southeast faces the greatest risk of mosquito-related illnesses since warmer temperatures increase mosquito populations. One new disorder climate change has caused is “climate anxiety,” which is the fear of climate change and its impacts on the world, and it mainly affects children and young adults, according to the study. “The whole concept of climate anxiety is an added, potentially weighty, influence,” Dr. Sanjay Sisodiya, lead study author and a professor at the University College London Institute of Neurology, said in a statement.

TANGENT

In April, the European Court of Human Rights ruled governments have the responsibility of stopping climate change and its negative impact on their citizens. This came after a group of older Swiss women filed a lawsuit saying they’re at a higher risk of death from heat waves because Switzerland hasn’t done enough to protect them from the effects of climate change. The court said it’s a violation of basic human rights if a government doesn’t work to fight against climate change through means like meeting its emissions targets. The court criticized Switzerland for not cutting its greenhouse gas emissions, and not implementing a framework to tackle climate change. Switzerland was ordered to pay roughly $87,000 in legal fees to the group of over 1,000 women, aged 64 years and up.

 

Source: forbes.com, Arianna Johnson

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