Exposure to Sun, Heat and Humidity Can Exacerbate Symptoms of Mental Disorders


Overview: Researchers report that exposure to hot, humid weather can cause psychological symptoms that require emergency care.

Source: University of Albany

Exposure to sunny, hot, and humid weather can cause severe symptoms of mental disorders, requiring emergency care. So reports a recent study, led by researchers at the University at Albany, who used New York state weather data and hospital visits to assess how features of summer weather affect people with mental disorders.

The study was the first to evaluate the combined effects of multiple meteorological factors for all classes of mental disorders designated by the World Health Organization.

These findings, published in Environment Internationalcould inform strategies to improve patient care.

Lead author Xinlei Deng, who received his Ph.D. in May in UAlbany’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, says: “We know the weather affects mood. But while a warm, clear day is a boost for some, others can become irritated more easily or get angry more easily. For those with mental disorders can cause changes in multiple weathering symptoms that pose serious health risks.”

“By examining local weather conditions along with information about emergency room visits, we found clear trends linking high heat, humidity and sun exposure with increased rates of emergency admissions due to mental disorders, especially in patients suffering from symptoms. associated with the use of psychoactive substances, mood disorders, stress disorders and behavioral disorders in adults, including forms of violence such as pyromania.

“Understanding these connections can help healthcare providers shape interventions to protect patient well-being.”

The statewide analysis included two six-month study periods, focusing on the warmer months: May-October, in 2017 and 2018.

The team used meteorological data from NYS Mesonet – a UAlbany-operated network of 126 weather stations in every New York county and municipality, recording atmospheric and soil conditions at 5-minute intervals. Their study looked at data on temperature, solar radiation, relative humidity, heat index and rainfall.

Emergency care due to mental disorders were identified using the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10). Disorders are coded by subtype, including categories such as stress-related disorders, intellectual disabilities, and intentional self-harm.

During the study periods, 547,540 emergency room visits attributed to mental disorders were recorded in New York State. To match local weather conditions and emergency room visits, each case’s residential address was geocoded and linked to the nearest Mesonet station. Information on patient diagnoses and demographics was obtained from the New York Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System, a mandatory hospital discharge database that covers approximately 95% of hospitals in the state.

The results showed that the combination of high temperature, solar radiation and relative humidity posed the greatest risk of symptoms of serious mental disorders. The effects were strongest in the summer transition months of September and October. The populations most affected included: men, Hispanic and African American individuals, people aged 46-65, Medicaid or Medicare subscribers, and those without insurance.

Different classes of mental disorders clearly responded to certain combinations of weather conditions. For example, hospitals saw more emergency room visits as a result of psychoactive substance use (eg, consuming alcohol or opioids) when solar radiation, temperature, heat index, and humidity were high.

Severe symptoms of mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder, coincided with less sun and high heat.

“As extreme heat due to climate change becomes more intense and frequent, we can expect these changes to have adverse physiological effects on humans,” said Shao Lin, senior author of the study and a professor at UAlbany’s School of Public Health.

“Individuals with mental disorders are particularly vulnerable to these changes, and our findings suggest that multiple, concomitant weather stressors may increase health risk. When sharpening targeted care, combined factors must be taken into account.”

Exposure to sunny, hot, and humid weather can cause severe symptoms of mental disorders, requiring emergency care. Image is in the public domain

Since mental symptoms related to the weather can take time to manifest, the team measured “lag days” — the time between the onset of a particular weather event and the date of hospitalization — to explain this delay. They found that only high temperatures posed the most immediate short-term risk, while the heat index increased the risk over a two-week period.

Deng, who is now doing postdoctoral work at the National Institutes of Health, explains: “As we learn more about the ways the weather affects mental health, it’s critical to more precisely formulate the timing of the onset of symptoms.

Understanding delay effects can help hospital health care providers know when to prepare to receive a larger number of patients in the wake of prolonged weather events known to exacerbate certain mental health disorders.”

Public health agencies such as the CDC could use these findings to establish early warning systems to prevent violence and mental health syndromes. Proactive measures could include facilitating access to cooling centers and encouraging patients with relevant mental disorders to pay attention to heat waves and sun exposure and seek shelter where necessary.

“Knowing that transition months have the highest risk of serious symptoms tells us that early warning and related education systems should begin in May and continue through September-October,” Lin said. “Policymakers can plan preparedness efforts using health risk thresholds associated with weather factors.”

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“Weather and climate have major health implications — right from severe and hazardous weather to more indirect effects of allergens and mental health,” said Jerry Brotzge, a paper co-author and longtime New York State program manager Mesonet. recently hired as a state climatologist in his home state of Kentucky.

“Recent advances in weather observations collected at high temporal and spatial scales, such as those captured by Mesonet, may revolutionize our understanding of how changes in weather cause changes in health. Once we better understand these relationships, we can respond more effectively to patient needs.”

About this research news on climate change and mental health

Author: press office
Source: University of Albany
Contact: Press Office – University in Albany
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original research: Open access.
“Identifying joint effects of solar irradiance, temperature, humidity, and rain duration on the causation of mental disorders using a high-resolution weather monitoring system” by Xinlei Deng et al. Environment International


Identifying joint effects of solar radiation, temperature, humidity and rain duration on the causation of mental disorders using a high-resolution weather monitoring system


Mental disorders (MDs) are behavioral or mental patterns that cause significant stress or impairment in personal functioning. Previously, temperature was associated with MDs, but most studies suffered from incorrect exposure classification due to limited measurement sites. We wanted to assess whether multiple meteorological factors together could lead to visits to the MD-related emergency department (ED) in the warm season, using a very dense weather monitoring system.


We performed a time-stratified, case-crossover study. Physician-related emergency room (primary diagnosis) visits from May-October 2017-2018 were obtained from the New York State (NYS) discharge database. We obtained solar irradiance (SR), relative humidity (RH), temperature, heat index (HI), and rainfall from Mesonet, a real-time monitoring system located approximately 27 miles (126 stations) across NYS. We used conditional logistic regression to assess the weather-MD associations.


For each increase in interquartile range (IQR), both SR (excess risk (ER): 4.9%, 95% CI: 3.2-6.7%) and RH (ER: 4.0%, 95% CI: : 2.6-5.4%) highest risk for MD-related ED visits at 0-9 days delay. While temperature posed a short-term risk (highest ER at delay 0-2 days: 3.7%, 95% CI: 2.5-4.9%), HI increased the risk over a two-week period (ER range: 3 .7-4.5%), and rainfall hours were inversely associated with MDs (ER: −0.5%, 95% CI: 0.9-(-0.1)%). In addition, we saw a stronger association of SR, RH, temperature and HI in September and October. Combination of high SR, RH and temperature showed the greatest increase in MDs (ER: 7.49%, 95% CI: 3.95-11.15%). The weather-MD association was stronger for psychoactive substance use, mood disorders, behavioral disorders in adults, men, Hispanics, African Americans, individuals aged 46-65, or Medicare patients.


Hot and humid weather, especially the combined effect of high solar radiation, temperature and relative humidity, showed the highest risk of MD disease. We found stronger weather MD associations in the transition months of summer, men and minority groups. These findings also require further confirmation.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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