The Effect of Heat Waves on Mental Health in a Temperate Australian City

Discipline of Public Health, School of Population Health and Clinical Practice, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.
Environmental Health Perspectives (Impact Factor: 7.98). 11/2008; 116(10):1369-75. DOI: 10.1289/ehp.11339
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The goal of this study was to identify mental, behavioral, and cognitive disorders that may be triggered or exacerbated during heat waves, predisposing individuals to heat-related morbidity and mortality.
Using health outcome data from Adelaide, South Australia, for 1993-2006, we estimated the effect of heat waves on hospital admissions and mortalities attributed to mental, behavioral, and cognitive disorders. We analyzed data using Poisson regression accounting for overdispersion and controlling for season and long-term trend, and we performed threshold analysis using hockey stick regression.
Above a threshold of 26.7 degrees C, we observed a positive association between ambient temperature and hospital admissions for mental and behavioral disorders. Compared with non-heat-wave periods, hospital admissions increased by 7.3% during heat waves. Specific illnesses for which admissions increased included organic illnesses, including symptomatic mental disorders; dementia; mood (affective) disorders; neurotic, stress related, and somatoform disorders; disorders of psychological development; and senility. Mortalities attributed to mental and behavioral disorders increased during heat waves in the 65- to 74-year age group and in persons with schizophrenia, schizotypal, and delusional disorders. Dementia deaths increased in those up to 65 years of age.
Our results suggest that episodes of extreme heat pose a salient risk to the health and well-being of the mentally ill.
Improvements in the management and care of the mentally ill need to be addressed to avoid an increase in psychiatric morbidity and mortality as heat waves become more frequent.

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    • "Heatwaves (usually defined as daily maximum temperatures above 35°C for three or more consecutive days) cause significant human health impacts for the elderly, people on medication, the very young, the poor and Indigenous communities (Climate Commission, 2013). Certain respiratory and cardiovascular conditions increase the risk of morbidity and mortality during and immediately following very hot days (Vaneckova and Bambrick, 2013), particularly for people with a mental disorder or those who have at least one cardiac risk factor (Hansen et al., 2008a, 2008b). "
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    ABSTRACT: In this chapter, we draw inspiration from Tony McMichael's research on the implications of climate change for human health and well-being and his exhortations to pay attention to the big picture. As a consequence, we use historical and contemporary materials to reflect on how Australia's cultural history has contributed to the development of our somewhat relaxed attitudes and practices in relation to increasingly hot weather and climate change. We consider the historical experiences of European settlers who arrived from the northern hemisphere with little understanding of hot weather and attempted to impose themselves on a foreign landscape. They developed a stoic approach to hot weather; something to be endured, if they were to survive. Over time, a more compromising attitude has developed as Australians gradually, and partially, adapt their clothing, behaviour, housing and location of residence to cope with the bodily discomforts of heat. Now they rely on techno-fixes, such as air conditioning, to manage hot weather, with unhelpful implications for climate change mitigation. Instead of relying on individual behaviour change, we nominate three policy domains where action is urgently required.
    The Health of People, Places and Planet, Edited by Colin D Butler, Jane Dixon, Anthony G Capon, 07/2015: chapter 20: pages 379-392; ANU Press., ISBN: 9781925022407 (print); 9781925022414 (online)
    • "Likewise, epidemiological studies in other parts of the world have demonstrated associations between heat waves and increased rates of hospital admissions for renal disease [Hansen et al., 2008b; Green et al., 2010; Nitschke et al., 2011; Basu et al., 2012] and associations between occupational heat stress and self-reported medically diagnosed kidney disease [Tawatsupa et al., 2012] giving reason to consider the possibility of a link between heat exposure in sugarcane workers and the CKD epidemic. In addition, the fact that current conditions imply clear risks for sugarcane harvesters provokes special concern that the expected increase in daily temperature as well as the increased frequency, severity and duration of heatwaves as a result of climate change will almost certainly create an even more severe situation for workers such as sugarcane harvesters. "
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    ABSTRACT: Exposure to heat stress is a documented risk for Central American sugarcane harvesters. However, little is known about heat-related illness in this population. This study examined the frequency of heat-related health effects among harvesters (n = 106) exposed to occupational heat stress compared to non-harvesters (n = 63). Chi-square test and gamma statistic were used to evaluate differences in self-reported symptoms and trends over heat exposure categories. Heat and dehydration symptoms (headache, tachycardia, muscle cramps, fever, nausea, difficulty breathing, dizziness, swelling of hands/feet, and dysuria) were experienced at least once per week significantly more frequently among harvesters. Percentages of workers reporting heat and dehydration symptoms increased in accordance with increasing heat exposure categories. A large percentage of harvesters are experiencing heat illness throughout the harvest demonstrating an urgent need for improved workplace practices, particularly in light of climate change and the epidemic of chronic kidney disease prevalent in this population. Am. J. Ind. Med. 58:541-548, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    American Journal of Industrial Medicine 05/2015; 58(5):541-8. DOI:10.1002/ajim.22450 · 1.74 Impact Factor
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    • "Statistical evidence for the association of increased mortality and extreme temperature in urban areas has been globally documented (Oudin Åström et al., 2011). The risk of suffering from adverse human health impacts due to heat is expected to increase, particularly in urban areas located in the temperate climate zone (Hansen et al., 2008). Researchers have established that increasing rates of urbanization, demographic and climatic change are the major driving forces affecting the likelihood of adverse health effects due to heat in populations that are not adapted to severe heat impacts (Sheridan and Dolney, 2003). "
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    ABSTRACT: Heat stress increasingly affects urban populations in higher geographical latitudes. Related adverse health effects are expected to increase due to urbanization, population aging, and global warming. While many studies have examined the relationship between heat and mortality, only a few have examined the intra-urban spatial variability between them. This missing research is particularly evident for northern mid-latitude cities, where populations are not prepared for heat stress. The aim of this study is therefore to investigate heat-related excess mortality in its spatial variability at the neighborhood scale (397 planning areas) for Berlin, the capital of Germany. We analyzed age-standardized mortality rates by calculating the relative heat mortality risk ratio for months with and without severe heat waves. Local indicators of spatial association were used to locate spatial clusters. The results highlighted the intra-urban variability of heat-related excess mortality, and demonstrated clustering for the planning areas of Berlin. Temporal aggregation of mortality data enabled a neighborhood-scale analysis. Resulting heat-related excess mortality maps allow urban decision makers to identify hot spots for emergency and adaptation planning, and serve as a basis for further investigations of heat stress risk on an individual level.
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