As Europe swelters, how are we affected psychologically?

Author

Ilan Kelman

Source(s)
Psychology Today

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Along with the physiological effects, mental health and well-being consequences of heat-humidity are important. Our bodies respond biochemically to heat and humidity leading to stress that can compound physically to affect us mentally. Some mental health and well-being conditions appear to be directly affected by heat and humidity, such as schizophrenia, depression, and dementia. Some medications for mental health and well-being impede the body’s ability to adjust to heat and humidity while the effectiveness of others change with body temperature.

When excessive heat and humidity disrupt daily life, force people into hospital, and kill others, heatwave disasters result. Possibilities emerge for other linked disasters such as those involving vegetation fires—with many small ones igniting around London, leading to a declaration of a major incident. These disasters can increase or decrease depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or anxiety, depending on pre-existing psychological state and support given, among other factors.

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Stigmatising mental health and well-being problems impede assisting people irrespective of weather and it makes data baselines nebulous and inconsistent. Observed differences in men's and women’s heatwave death rates can be only partly explained by different physiological responses.

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The state of health systems, including the availability and accessibility of trained personnel and healthcare centres, makes a big difference in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. When health systems vary widely nationally and locally, data for mental health and well-being are not comparable.

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