Heat and humidity as a result of climate change could be linked to a rise in suicide, according to a scientific report that used data from 60 countries over several decades.
An article published in ‘Scientific Reports’ on Monday claimed to have “empirical evidence” that suggests “the effects of anthropogenic climate change” – namely heat and humidity – could “have a significant impact on mental health.”
Humidity in particular had a higher correlation with suicide than heatwaves, and the link had the largest effect on younger people and women, according to the report, which ruled “there is likely a relationship between both heatwave occurrences and relative humidity with suicide.”
Co-author Dr Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson told The Guardian that the link could be a result of the body’s difficulty with regulating temperature in humid environments and that sleep could also be a factor.
“If you talk about mental health there are quite a lot of links – there’s anxiety, it’s hard to sleep, it becomes unbearable,” Ayeb-Karlsson explained, adding, “Sleep deprivation is a massive thing… It’s difficult to sleep when it’s hot and even more when it’s humid.”
Though hot countries like Thailand were found to be some of the most at risk, Ayeb-Karlsson warned that colder European countries like Sweden also demonstrated a link between humidity and suicide, explaining that “the shock of going from colder temperatures to extreme temperatures” can be “dangerous to mental health.” According to the study, 40 countries had a particularly strong link between suicide and humidity.
The results, however, were mixed, with some hot and humid countries showing a decreased suicide rate or no correlation at all, and the report noted that further research would be necessary.
The study also did not consider factors such as socioeconomic status and access to healthcare in its findings.