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Yet another claim: Psychology Today: ‘Rising Temperatures Could Worsen Mental Health’

Psychology Today: Rising Temperatures Could Worsen Mental Health.

Hotter temperatures, more frequent hurricanes, and added precipitation are all associated with an increased prevalence of mental health challenges in the U.S., a recent study finds—and experts warn that the problem is likely to get worse as the climate continues to warm.

Using data provided by a randomly selected sample of more than two million U.S. residents in the years from 2000 to 2012, the study found that an increase in average maximum temperatures of 1 degree Celsius over a five-year period was associated with a 2 percent increase in the prevalence of self-reported mental health issues. Average monthly highs that shifted from below 30 degrees Celsius (about 86 degrees Fahrenheit) to above that mark corresponded with a half-a-percentage increase in self-reported mental health challenges in those locations.

Across the entire U.S. population, the authors write, that would translate to almost 2 million additional people likely experiencing poor mental health in months with average temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius—a scenario already projected to happen with greater frequency across large swaths of the country each year.

A wetter climate also appeared to exacerbate mental health problems. Months with more than 25 days of precipitation were associated with a 2 percent increase in reported stress and depression relative to months with fewer wet days. Exposure to Hurricane Katrina, the most significant hurricane during the period captured in the data, was linked to a 4 percent increase in mental health problems. Low-income respondents—and particularly low-income women—were significantly more likely to report worsened mental health when temperatures were higher than 30 degrees Celsius.

The mental health data came from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, which asked participants to assess how often their mental health—specifically with regard to stress, depression, or “problems with emotions”—had been “not good” over the previous 30 days. This data was cross-referenced with climate data from PRISM Climate Group at Oregon State University as well as other sources.

Given the scientific consensus that the