Mental Health and Well-being (From ‘The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States’ Report)
AbstractKey Finding 1: Many people exposed to climate-related or weather-related disasters experience stress and serious mental health consequences. Depending on the type of the disaster, these consequences include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and general anxiety, which often occur at the same time [Very High Confidence]. The majority of affected people recover over time, although a significant proportion of exposed individuals develop chronic psychological dysfunction [High Confidence].
Key Finding 2: Specific groups of people are at higher risk for distress and other adverse mental health consequences from exposure to climate-related or weather-related disasters. These groups include children, the elderly, women (especially pregnant and post-partum women), people with preexisting mental illness, the economically disadvantaged, the homeless, and first responders [High Confidence]. Communities that rely on the natural environment for sustenance and livelihood, as well as populations living in areas most susceptible to specific climate change events, are at increased risk for adverse mental health outcomes [High Confidence].
Key Finding 3: Many people will experience adverse mental health outcomes and social impacts from the threat of climate change, the perceived direct experience of climate change, and changes to one’s local environment [High Confidence]. Media and popular culture representations of climate change influence stress responses and mental health and well-being [Medium Confidence].
Key Finding 4: People with mental illness are at higher risk for poor physical and mental health due to extreme heat [High Confidence]. Increases in extreme heat will increase the risk of disease and death for people with mental illness, including elderly populations and those taking prescription medications that impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature [High Confidence].