The effects of heat on physical health are well documented, but very few studies have looked at the effects of extreme heat on mental health. This nationwide study is the largest and most comprehensive analysis of daily ambient temperature and mental health-related ED visits in US adults of all ages. As extreme heat days are expected to increase as climate change worsens, the findings fill an important research gap and provide evidence-based support for interventions. Proactive and policy solutions can mitigate heat-related crises.
Lead author of the study, Dr Amruta Nori-Sarma, associate professor of environmental health at BUSPH said: “Emergency department visits represent some of the most costly interactions in the care system. health. “Addressing the need of the most vulnerable for early access can have a positive impact on individual health and costs, as well as conserve health care resources for vulnerable populations. other emergencies.”
According to Nori-Sarma, these new findings should spur healthcare providers to prepare for the growing demand for mental health services during periods of extreme heat. “As heatwaves are forecast, clinicians and public health professionals can use our findings to specifically prepare for reaching patients with health conditions.” existing psyche.”
The study’s senior author, Dr. Gregory Wellenius, professor of environmental health and director of the Climate and Health Program at BUSPH, said the public could also benefit from this insight.
“On days of intense heat, it is important for each of us to take the necessary precautions to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, which may include getting checked for Neighbors or family members may be vulnerable to heat exposure. .
For the study, Nori-Sarma and colleagues collected medical claim data on mental health-related ED visits from the OptumLabs Repository, which contains unidentified, longitudinal health information. of more than 200 million Medicare Advantage enrollees commercially and throughout the United States. Researchers analyzed approximately 3.5 million ED visits among 2.2 million adults 18 years of age and older with commercial health insurance or Medicare Advantage during the warm season (May through September) from 2010 to 2019.
Extreme heat days — defined as temperatures above the 95th percentile of the county temperature distribution — are most strongly associated with ED visits to check for behavioral and behavioral disorders substance use in childhood, followed by anxiety, stress-related disorders and somatoform and mood disorders. Extreme heat is also associated with ED screening for schizophrenia.
The researchers found that the effects of heat on mental health were similar across age groups, and were evident in both men and women and in every region of the country. “These results show that heat can have a profound effect on people’s mental health regardless of age, gender or where they live,” said Wellenius.
The authors found the impact of heat to be slightly higher in the Northeast, Midwest, and Northwest. While those areas typically experience lower temperatures than the southeastern or southwestern United States, “that’s exactly why populations in these areas are likely to be hardest hit during this time.” high temperature,” said Nori-Sarma. “They don’t necessarily have the skills or resources to cope during periods of extreme heat. Heat events will become even more extreme as the climate continues to warm, so it’s important. It’s doubly important to identify the most vulnerable populations and help them adapt to warmer summer conditions.”
In future studies, the researchers aim to identify public health strategies that will help alert people to the risks posed by extreme heat and better protect community members. copper is most vulnerable. Follow-up research will also explore the impact of high temperatures on mental health over longer periods (i.e. heatwaves), as well as the impact on the vulnerable groups that this study has. uninsured, including those who are uninsured, low-income, and diverse. / ethnic minorities and those who are experiencing less urgent situations.
The continuing impacts of COVID-19 on mental health will also shape this work. The gridlock, social isolation and general uncertainty in the early days of the pandemic increased demand — and limited availability — for mental health services because ED is overwhelmed with patients who are experiencing a physical emergency, Nori-Sarma said.
“As we move into the upcoming summer, it is important to note that a combination of stressors — pandemics and climate — can exacerbate mental health conditions,” she said. existing god. “The mental health system should plan accordingly.”