I feel very hot and as though I can’t sweat, although I’m inside with the air conditioner going full blast. It’s not the laptop that’s heating me up as I have a silica-gel filled cushion thingy on my lap.
I was wondering if there was any solid information on the effect of heat waves on mental health, as mine feels pretty icky when the weather is hot for too long. I definitely feel more down than I was a few days ago and I feel restless and unable to concentrate as well- when I was just starting to get a handle on this problem, too. This vid would probably help me forget the heat wave for a minute or two:
Anyway, into the technical stuff. I consulted good old Wikipedia, which told me that heat causes physical and psychological stress which can affect how well people do their work, plus there is a definite increase in violent crime [Simister, John; Cary Cooper (October 2004). “Thermal stress in the U.S.A.: effects on violence and on employee behaviour”. Stress and Health (International Society for the Investigation of Stress) 21 (1): 3–15.doi:10.1002/smi.1029 ].
Wikipedia also cited a report on South Australia’s hot weather as an international example. Therefore, we are in no doubt that heat waves happen often around here. I wonder why there are no public health efforts to provide cool places for people to shelter- or does everyone rely on shopping centres and public libraries anyway? I know that a special service has started where Red Cross volunteers phone older people who have registered to check if they are OK during heat waves. This seems like a good advance on yesteryear, so perhaps we could have a similar service for people with heat-susceptible mental health problems.
It’s well known that older people and those who already suffer physical illness are some of the first admitted to hospital or to die when it’s very hot. In addition I found a local study on increases in mental health problems during heat waves in my home city. I am pleased to see the article was written by people from the public health department at the uni where I’m studying:
The Effect of Heat Waves on Mental Health in a Temperate Australian City.
They found that there were definitely more admissions to hospital for mental health problems (up 7.3%) when the temperature was over 26.7 degrees Celsius. So this would include hot nights as well as days- it’s just disgusting when the temp is over about 22 at night. Mood disorders such as major depression and Bipolar disorder(manic depressive illness) were up 9+ percent compared with cooler periods.
The last 5 days (January 7- 10, 2010) have all been over 35 degrees officially as you can see from this Adelaide weather site: http://www.bom.gov.au/weather/sa/observations/adelaide.shtml. Click around in there if you’re interested.
I wonder why we all hate the (relative) heat so much. I know I have some hateful friends who enjoy it, but the majority can’t wait for it to finish. Most complain about not being able to sleep and a few, like me, complain of feeling quite ill and unable to concentrate. Honestly, if I felt like this and had a sore throat as well I’d scarper to the doctor’s quick smart! For the most part I manage to do a few necessary household things but not all of them, have a shower, get dressed and that’s about it. Everything else seems just insurmountable, just like when my depression is at its worst, although currently I know I’m only a bit that way. Obviously people who live closer to the Equator at sea level are better adapted to this sort of thing, but even there unusually hot spells raise the crime rate. Some people are blaming global warming for the current Australian heat waves and/or climate change. Others are more in favour of natural long term fluctuations in global temperature patterns being responsible for these ghastly hot spells. Whatever the cause, we can’t do much about it in the short term.
So- any ideas on how we can cope? My mind is blank! I’ll just have to try to sit it out and celebrate copiously when the cool change arrives! Come onnnnn!!!