Association between Climate Change and Mental Health in 3,141 U.S. Counties: a Nationwide Study

Authors: Hoehun Ha*, Auburn University - Montgomery, Wanyun Shao, Auburn University - Montgomery
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Environmental Science, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: mental health, climate change
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Background: Mental health incorporates our emotional, psychological and social well-being and it is critical at each phase of life, from youth and pre-adulthood through adulthood.
Methods: We assessed the association between mentally unhealthy days (MUDs) and series of climate change indicators on the basis of cross-county studies. Data on poor mental health days for the U.S were based on health-related telephone surveys conducted by Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Series of climate change indicators including extreme heat and extreme precipitation events, were collected from CDC Tracking Network.
Results: In the dataset (across 3,141 U.S. counties for 2011) a significant association between climate change indicator and poor mental health days was found, explaining that poor mental health days increases with increasing number of days with extreme precipitation (R2=.467, p < 0.001). Controlling for adult smoking, social-emotional support, unemployment, education, and other relevant socioeconomic factors did not change these findings.
Conclusions: In this study, we found that the counties with higher number of extreme precipitation had significantly higher average number of mentally unhealthy days reported in past 30 days. This association at county-level has not been reported before in the literature. These findings suggest a need for further investigation into the extent by which extreme precipitation events may serve as a triggering factor for mental health and have major implications in our understanding of the etiology of mental health by medical professionals.

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