The environment we live in is changing quickly — could this have an impact on our mental health?
Nobody knows what the future holds, but what most experts can agree on is that the future will be much warmer than the present. As our environment continues to get warmer and more unpredictable, the consequences to the physical world have been well documented. A growing set of evidence is also pointing towards signs that it could affect our mental health, in ways we could not have imagined.
Natural Disasters and Psychology
The clear signs are all around us: climate change brings about a greater occurrence of natural disasters, such as floods, droughts, bushfires or hurricanes – and these disasters have an impact on one’s mental health. Recent incidents including the overwhelming heat in Australia has impacted the entire country: from tourists to citizens to farmers. With bushfires and extreme droughts threatening the livelihoods of many, be it the destruction of their home or business, or droughts making it challenging to get access to necessities such as food and water, the psychological effects are devastating. People coping with severe weather conditions can experience serious mental health symptoms, including post-traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety.
“An intensely traumatic event will have a substantial effect on the mental health of many survivors,” said psychologist and researcher Carl F. Weems, an associate professor at the University of New Orleans. “The more severe and intense your exposure to traumatic experiences during a disaster, the more likely that you will have severe mental health symptoms. If you watch someone die or your house floods, you tend to have more intense effects.”
A weather-related disaster is likely to be an acutely traumatic event. According to Weems, research suggests that between 25 and 50 percent of all people exposed to an extreme weather disaster may have some adverse mental health effects, the degree of severity depending on a number of things, including the person’s age, coping capacity, and proximity to the devastation.
Closer to home in Singapore, although weather-induced disasters are not as common, we still feel the pinch when the weather goes awry. The recent cold-weather spell in December, typically the monsoon season, has led to much more rain that we’re used to. Dreary grey skies, and clouds hanging in the sky can bring about rainy day blues and mood swings.
In parts of the world where fall and winter are more common, this phenomenon is a common medical condition known as seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Typical symptoms of the condition include an increased incidence of depression, anxiety, bad moods, fatigue and other problems commonly associated with poor mental health. This is due to a number of factors: first of all, the bad weather makes it difficult to carry out certain activities, like exercising outdoors, having a picnic in the park, or simply being outside and breathing in the fresh air. Such outdoor activities are often great mood-boosters and do wonders for your mental health. Secondly, the sun is a great source of Vitamin D and a little bit of exposure to it is great for your mood and increasing happiness.
When the sun starts to come out again in the eternal summer of Singapore, it always gets swelteringly hot. Extreme heat is known to bring out fatigue, and walking around under the scorching sun, sweating buckets, is uncomfortable to say the least. Warm nights too makes it much more difficult to get a good nights sleep, which is incredibly important to our well-being.
We can be quite certain that the weather does indeed have a huge impact on our mood. We must continue to educate ourselves on the possible impacts that climate change can have on our lives, and do what we can to stop it.
What are some of the ways you deal with extreme weather in Singapore? Let us know down in the comments!
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