Irish researchers uncover link between climate change and mental health

Irish researchers uncover link between climate change and mental health

Researchers at University College Cork (UCC) found women and minorities are particularly at a higher risk of psychological impairment when exposed to extreme weather. Picture: AP/ Mark Humphrey

Climate change and mental health have been linked by startling findings in a new Irish study that found the odds of developing issues are about 90% higher for those exposed to extreme weather events.

Researchers at University College Cork (UCC) found women and minorities are particularly at a higher risk of psychological impairment when exposed to extreme weather.

Citing figures from the Centre of Epidemiology of Disasters that reported a tenfold increase in the number of climate-related disaster events in the past 70 years, the researchers looked at previous studies that examined psychological impairment among populations exposed to extreme weather.

Some 59 reviews published over 20 years were identified, with data from almost 61,500 people exposed to extreme weather events. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder

A majority were assessed for post-traumatic stress disorder (77.4%), followed by depression (40.3%), and anxiety (23.4%), the UCC study found.

Overall, the odds of developing any psychological impairment were about 90% higher among individuals exposed to extreme weather events, the data show.

Lead author Dr Jean O’Dwyer of UCC’s School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science and Environmental Research Institute, said the study showed "the somewhat hidden impacts of the climate crisis".

"It emphasises that this global challenge comes with very local and personal consequences. Whether you’re in Ireland or Indonesia, if an extreme weather event threatens your home, your livelihood or your physical health, it will almost certainly impact your mental health too," Dr O'Dwyer said.

Women were found to be at a higher risk, often regardless of income, due to cultural, socio-economic, and physiological factors, the study found, while also likeliest to experience post-event violence.

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