A new study says mental health issues are connected to this unexpected—but majorly important—phenomenon

From pictures of the dying Great Barrier Reef to videos of starving polar bears, we’ve already begun to see the disastrous effects of climate change. And it turns out that Earth’s rising temperatures might be causing psychological damage as well as physical. A new study has found that climate change could negatively affect your mental health.

In the study, published on October 8th in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), researchers discovered that rising temperatures and increasing amounts of rainfall were associated with worsening mental health.

To reach this conclusion, researchers examined weather data from 2002 to 2012 alongside reports of mental health problems from two million Americans during that same time period. The data showed that a temperature increase of just one degree Celsius over five years increased the probability of mental health issues by 2%. Meanwhile, those who had lived through Hurricane Katrina were 4% more likely to experience negative mental health effects, suggesting that natural disasters can have a considerable impact on our well-being, too.

The study focuses on the impact of witnessing the shifting climate. But Nick Obradovich, lead author of the study and research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, told Salon that the study didn’t measure the fear that many experience in the face of global warming.

"One thing we weren't able to study was the stress/anxiety associated with the anticipation of more intense natural disasters in the future," Obradovich told Salon. "That stress/worry is likely to also play a non-negligible role in the mental health impacts of a changing climate."


This new studycomes on the heels of a startling new report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which states that global carbon dioxide emissions must be decreased by 45% within the next 12 years in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The IPCC notes that if the planet exceeds this number, it will be much more difficult to return to a normal temperature, and the consequences could be dire.

If climate change is important to you, you can donate to a variety of orgs dedicated to the environment—and don’t forget to make your voice heard in the November 6th midterm elections.

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