EXPOSURE TO CERTAIN WEATHER CONDITIONS can trigger severe symptoms of mental disorders, leading to the need for emergency care. That’s the conclusion of a first-of-its-kind study from the University of Albany (USA).
Today we explore how researchers used data on New York State weather and hospital emergency visits to assess how summer weather affects individuals suffering from mental disorders.
This research investigation is the first to analyze the combined effects of multiple meteorological factors across all classes of mental disorders designated by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Weather and mental health
The statewide analysis focused on two six-month study periods, May through October in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Researchers used meteorological data from a network of 126 weather stations across New York. The stations collected atmospheric and soil conditions every five minutes. The authors then analyzed temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation, rainfall, and the heat index.
During the study, nearly 550,000 emergency department visits attributable to mental disorders occurred in New York State. The savvy researchers geocoded the residential address of each case and paired it with the nearest weather station. A mandatory hospital discharge database provided medical information.
Here are the findings:
The combination of solar radiation, relative humidity, and high temperature posed the greatest risk of severe mental disorder symptoms.
The effects appeared strongest in September and October. The most acutely impacted included males, Hispanic and African Americans, those aged 46 to 65, Medicaid or Medicare subscribers, and people without insurance.
Different weather combinations appeared associated with particular types of mental illness presentations:
- Increased emergency department visits due to psychoactive substance use (opioids or alcohol) appeared highest when solar radiation, temperature, heat index, and humidity appeared high.
- Mood disorder (depression and bipolar disorders, for example) exacerbations coincided with high heat and less sun.
My take on weather and mental health
Interesting study. I worry about a warmer future in which climate change leads to twists and turns in what we experience daily. Those with mental illness may be particularly vulnerable in the face of multiple, simultaneous weather stressors.