Climate Change Is Harming Our Mental Health

Rising temperatures aren’t just putting our environment in jeopardy. Our mental health is suffering as well, with suicides on the rise.

According to a recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, when there are abnormally high temperatures in a given month, there tends to be an increase in suicides during that month. This was found to be true in both US and Mexico with each one degree Celsius increase in average monthly temperature (or about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

That’s right, if a monthly average is a mere 1.8 degrees above usual, the rate of suicides increases.

“We find a very consistent relationship between temperature increases and increases in suicide risk,” said Marshall Burke, lead author of the study,

Suicide is currently the 10th leading cause of death in the US and kills around 45,000 people annually, according to the most recent data. What’s more, suicide rates have risen by over 30 percent in about half of US states since 1999.

While it’s unlikely that climate change is wholly to blame, rising temperatures are playing a major role in the increase of severe anxiety, depression, and suicides.

From the study, “Combining our estimated changes in the suicide rate with projections of future population change in the two countries, we estimate that, by 2050, climate change will cause a total of 14,020 excess suicides in the United States and 7,460 excess suicides in Mexico.”

That means, not taking into consideration any other variables, the shifting temperatures alone will lead to more people taking their own lives. This is a crisis.

In addition to the increase in suicides, there may also be an increase in violence, both self-inflicted and externally inflicted. There is a strong link between uncomfortably hot ambient temperatures and aggression. The increase in extreme temperatures is likely to increase the number of people getting violent and aggressive. That means potentially more arguments, more shootings, more abuse, more national conflicts, more terrorism.

Firefighter at work

Recent record-breaking temperatures globally are also encouraging rampant wildfires, droughts, food shortages, widespread extinctions, erratic flooding, more violent weather patterns, and even encouraging the spread of disease-ridden insects and infectious diseases. Absolutely no one is immune from the effects of climate change.

But climate research doesn’t come without a speck of hope. According to an article published in Oxford Research Encyclopedia:

“There is good news as well: while the situation seems dire, action can be taken by individuals, groups, and governments to prevent these outcomes. Such actions include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which reduces the speed and magnitude of climate change, and the use of better population control… Relatively small-scale household behaviors (e.g., carpooling, changing air filters, getting appliances and vehicles tuned up, and setting back thermostats by a few degrees) can lead to significant population-level effects on carbon emission reduction. Other studies have shown that encouraging people to think long-term about leaving behind a positive legacy can motivate them to engage in pro-environmental behavior. Engelman (2009) has suggested that investing in voluntary family planning and girls’ education may also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, at least as much as spending that same money on nuclear or wind energy. Other research suggests that framing climate change as a global issue, rather than as a source of localized disasters, fosters peaceful coexistence and reconciliation (Pyszczynski et al., 2012).”

Climate change is upon us, and we don’t have time to deny it any longer. We’ve done that plenty already. Pressure your local government and businesses to react. Make changes in your own life. Fight for your right to a healthy, balanced planet—for a clean environment, for preserved wild spaces, for clean air and water and real, aggressive climate action.

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