Recent research: Climate change can worsen mental health and well-being

The report says 20-30% of people who live through a hurricane develop depression and/or PTSD

Climate change hazards lead to mental health risks (Climate Central) (Copyright 2022 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month and hurricane season begins soon, so it’s a good time to talk about how climate change and weather disasters can affect mental health and well-being.

Climate Central cites a February 2022 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that reviewed evidence linking climate change to diagnosable mental health disorders and broader outcomes for well-being.

The IPCC report says 20-30% of people who live through a hurricane develop depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) within the first few months following the event. Data was analyzed from hurricanes like Katrina, Sandy, Harvey and Maria. Rates are similar for those who are affected by flooding.

Climate change research tells us that more extreme events are happening and there is less time between those events. The graph below shows how the number of days between billion-dollar disasters has decreased in recent years.

Fewer days between billion-dollar disasters (Climate Central) (Copyright 2022 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

48% of American adults believe that climate change is already affecting our mental health and 51% are anxious about its impact on future generations. Those numbers come from the American Psychiatric Association.

The IPCC report tells us that climate change-related mental health risks can be:

  • Direct (anxiety, depression or PTSD from personal traumas sustained during a hurricane)
  • Indirect (stress, substance abuse or suicidal ideation among people whose livelihood or food security is affected by drought)
  • Vicarious (anxiety, fear and distress as people learn about climate change risks or witness how climate change impacts others)

About the Author:

Justin McKee presents the weather forecast on 10 News Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 to 8 a.m. He also fills in for other meteorologists during the week.