Warning to people with mental health conditions in summer temperatures | The Sun

IT’S commonly thought that when the sun comes out, everyone’s mood improves.

But people with mental health conditions have been warned that the summer months may worsen their condition.

A study found that warm temperatures increased the risk of a hospital trip, with more emergency visits recorded. 

But interestingly, rain was protective, going against the notion that a grey, rainy day spoils mood. 

The study, by University at Albany, New York, looked at patterns in emergency department trips related to a mental health disorder across the state. 

A total of 547,540 visits in a one-year period were studied and compared against the weather.

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When the sun came out, the number of mentally ill people who needed hospital care increased, according to the findings published in Environment International.

Sun exposure and humidity of more than 70 per cent showed a gradual and long lasting impact for up to two weeks.

Temperature spikes, such as those seen in heatwaves above 20C, created short-term impacts.

The researchers were surprised to find these effects were strongest in the transitional summer months of September and October.

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Meanwhile, days with more hours of rainfall saw lower mental health disorder visits, having a protective effect.

Men, those aged between 46 and 65, and those from a minority group were the most likely to be impacted by the weather. 

The mental health disorders most impacted were:

  • Mood disorders (such as bipolar and major depression)
  • Stress-related disorders (such as PTSD and OCD)
  • Adult behaviour disorders (such as borderline personality disorder)
  • Psychoactive drug use (such as alcohol or opioid use disorders)

The findings support others that have come before, the researchers said, but they are the first to find a positive association with rain.

They wrote in their paper: “As temperature and humidity rise, the stress and symptoms of those who have MDs [mental disorders] could be exacerbated.”

One theory for the findings is that serotonin and dopamine – the so-called “happy hormones” that are off balance in many mental health conditions – may react differently when body temperature rises.

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Another idea is that delicate changes in levels of these hormones may increase a person’s impulse activity, such as drug-taking.

Limitations of the study include that it only looked at the most severe cases of mental illness, and those with milder cases may not be affected.

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