Mental health struggles in winter are discussed regularly. The darkness, cold temperatures, and snow can all contribute to isolation and depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) commonly affects people in the winter.
But the summer doesn’t always lend itself to mental health either. Particularly for those who suffer from depression, anxiety, mood disorders, or addiction issues.
It’s not so much the season, but the extreme weather it can bring. In recent years, and a trend that is likely to continue as people attempt to live in a world with a severely changing climate, intense heat waves are making it very difficult for people’s mental health.
New research has found that extreme heat is making it very difficult for people with mental illness to cope. The study reports that during summer temperature spikes, Americans with depression, anxiety, and other mood troubles are increasingly showing up in emergency rooms for help.
Researchers looked at data on mental health-related ER visits from a medical claims database that included 2.2 million Americans during spring and summer from 2010 to 2019.
Data showed that on the hottest days, people struggling with mental health issues were likely to seek help at an ER. And the data only showed people with insurance, so the numbers are likely much higher than researchers observed.
Extreme heat is stressful. It can physically defeat a person, and it is even more intense for those without air conditioning or the ability to seek refuge. It is literally a threat to life.
Heat can also contribute to anxiety because it makes sleeping very difficult. It also makes it easy to become dehydrated. Lastly, it may cause some to dwell on the reality that the world is facing an increase in catastrophic conditions resulting from climate change.
So, what can you do? There aren’t a ton of options for dealing with the heat. If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you can try to protect yourself from the heat’s impact by purchasing an air conditioner, taking advantage of community cooling centers, staying hydrated, and asking family and friends to check on you.
Trying to stay cool during the night and sleep may also help.
You can also try and boost physical fitness with more exercise (not on hot days) and a healthy diet.