Is Climate Change Affecting Mental Health?

First Posted: Feb 01, 2014 02:03 PM EST

When you think of climate change, the first things that come to mind are polar icecaps, natural disasters, humid summers and frigid winters. But studies have shown that the effects of climate change are not solely limited to physical damage. 

According to a report released by the National Wildlife Federation's Climate Education Program and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2012, climate change-related events are expected to cause an increase in mental and social disorders. Such disorders include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, suicide and violence.

The report is entitled "The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States: And Why the U.S. Mental Health Care System is not Adequately Prepared."

More specifically, it's not just the subtle effects of climate change that are said to cause these mental issues. Extreme and violent weather conditions and natural disasters are believed to be the primary catalysts that affect the mental health of survivors.

"The physical toll has been studied, but the psychological impacts of climate change have not been addressed," said Lise Van Susteren, a forensic psychiatrist and one of the report's authors. "We must not forget that people who are physically affected by climate change will also be suffering from the emotional fallout of what has happened to them," she told Live Science.

The report zeroed in on specific populations that may be more prone to mental health issues than others; including children, the elderly, the poor, members of the military, and obviously people with pre-existing mental-health disorders. It also recommended that the government draft a plan to prepare for these potential mass mental-health concerns.

With the federal government set to make decisions on various climate-change and global warming issues in the coming months, these mental health concerns could play a big factor in the decision-making.

To read more about the effects of climate change on mental health, visit this Live Science article.

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