The effects will be most pronounced for women and for low-income Americans, the findings indicate.
"While the precise magnitude of these climate-induced adversities is hard to estimate, the theoretical relationship between climate change and mental health risk is compelling", the study author notes.
This year's World Mental Health Day focuses on young people. "We had this nice decade's worth of information about how environmental conditions related to the way people reported their mental health status", Obradovich said. It gives them evidence that hotter temperatures across the US worsen mental health of residents. What researchers found was that even a moderate temperature increase could have a negative effect on one's mental well-being. The team then correlated this with the climate changes and noted that when monthly temperatures averaged over 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit or more, the mental health problems also soared when compared to temperatures around 10 to 15 degrees Celsius (50-59 degrees Fahrenheit).
Rainy days took a toll as well. "Months with more than 25 days of rain increased the chances of mental health problems by 2%, while temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius led to a 0.5% increase", added Obradovich.
Next, the researchers considered the effect of warming that occurred over the course of several years.
That data were collected from 2002 to 2012.
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Previous studies have linked natural disasters to PTSD and acute depression, shown that psychiatric hospital admissions increase during hotter weather, and found that heat and drought raise rates of suicide.
Obradovich and his colleagues tweaked their analysis in several ways to make sure that this result was not a fluke.
Finally, the team considered the toll of hurricanes on mental health. If this exact change in temperature were generalized across the nation, "that would produce approximately two million additional individuals reporting mental health difficulties", Obradovich explained.
Mental health problems of people affected by the hurricane Katrina were compared with those who were unaffected.
While all three factors were significantly associated with worse mental health, there was a clear hierarchy among them - hurricanes were the worst, followed by long-term warming and short-term temperature changes.
For this study, researchers examined the mental health records of 2 million randomly selected U.S. citizens using data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System between 2002 and 2012, comparing the responses to meteorological and climatic data from the same period. Others may work in industries threatened by climate change and wind up unemployed. Good thing Miami is neither hot nor wet! He warned that a 2 degree Celsius rise can push human mental health over the edge.