The Surprising Link Between Climate Change & Mental Health

mbg Contributor By Caroline Muggia
mbg Contributor
Caroline Muggia is a writer, environmental advocate, and registered yoga teacher (E-RYT) with a B.A. in Environmental Studies & Psychology from Middlebury College.

We know by now how our physical health is inextricably tied up with planetary health and affected by climate change (poor air quality leading to respiratory disease). However, a new study finds that the effects of climate change negatively affect our mental health. The research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, compared weather data and mental health data (stress, depression, emotional distress) for 10 years, surveying over 2 million people in the United States.

The study found that increased temperatures (greater than 86 degrees Fahrenheit) and consistent rainfalls (more than 25 days) increased risk for mental health issues. Nick Obradovich, Ph.D., head researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tells Helio that these drastic changes could affect people's mood and increase mental health issues and the rate of suicide (which is currently the 10th leading cause of death in the United States).

While everyone is at risk for these negative effects of climate change, low-income people had a greater risk for mental health issues—in fact, 1.6 times that of high-income participants. Women experienced the largest negative effects of temperature on mental health. Those facing the largest risk? Low-income women—with risk twice that of high-income men.

It is now more important than ever to do what you can to stop climate change for your health (which includes the health of this planet!)

Wondering what simple steps you can take? How about joining your local community in climate change efforts? October means voting is around the corner, and heading to the polls November 6 to vote is one of the biggest impacts we can each have on climate change.

Perhaps the most important tip? Know that every little bit matters. And a lot of the ways you can help—creating community by carpooling to work, eating low-waste healthy leftovers for lunch—can help your mental health in the short term too.

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