Is it true that you have ‘eco-anxiety’? Here’s how you can figure it out.

29th January, 2022.      //   Health  // 

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We all know that variations in the weather and seasons have an impact on our moods, resulting in common seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and rainy-day blues. It’s also critical to understand the long-term implications of climate change on one’s mental and physical health.

Bonnie Schneider, author and former CNN meteorologist, analyzes these issues and gives professional advice on how to deal with them in her book “Taking the Heat: How Climate Change Is Affecting Your Mind, Body, and Spirit and What You Can Do About It.”

The book "Taking the Heat" by Bonnie Schneider releases on January 25.

The book “Taking the Heat” by Bonnie Schneider releases on January 25.

Bonnie Schneider: The most important factors that influence our health are our surroundings. Our mental well-being, as well as fluctuations in temperature, air and water quality, food safety and availability, are all linked to our natural surrounds. Both healthy people and those with pre-existing conditions can be affected by changes in these variables.
Take, for example, the temperature. Have you ever tried to sleep in a room that doesn’t have air conditioning? According to study, rising temperatures can interrupt sleep, as well as reduce mental clarity and recall.
According to a study of young, healthy college students, those who slept in rooms without air conditioning during a heat wave fared worse on cognitive tests the next day than those who slept in rooms with air conditioning.

Climate change has been linked to certain types of extreme weather events, including intensified floods, wildfires, severe thunderstorms and hurricanes that last longer and produce more rainfall. In 2021, 20 weather and climate disaster events in the US resulted in losses exceeding $1 billion each. Overall, natural disasters now happen more frequently, impacting more people.

Wildfires can cause burns and smoke inhalation, as well as injuries from falling debris and other types of trauma. Whether as a result of trauma, community loss, or displacement, mental health is also affected. According to research, these psychological effects might linger for years or even decades.
It’s also worth noting that even those who haven’t been directly affected by natural catastrophes might suffer from mental health issues. Of course, changes in one’s own neighborhood can cause a lot of worry. Afraidness can be triggered simply by witnessing photos of weather-related disaster on television. Even if the precise weather occurrence has nothing to do with climate change, this is the case.

What exactly is “eco-anxiety” and how widespread is it?
Schneider: The term “eco-anxiety” refers to people’s dread and anxiety about climate change and the planet’s future.
In a global study of 10,000 people in 2021, 84 percent of people aged 16 to 25 showed at least some concern about climate change. More than 56% indicated they believed “humanity is doomed” and 45% claimed climate change had a negative impact on their daily lives and functioning.

Experts at the Climate Psychiatry Alliance and the Climate Psychology Alliance confirm the genuine struggles that individuals, especially young people, are having with this kind of anxiety. It can cause severe disruption in daily life, intrude upon people’s thoughts and interfere with healthy sleep.

Is it true that some medical disorders make people more vulnerable to changes in the environment?
Yes, Schneider. Extreme weather, according to the majority of medical specialists, can put a strain on the body. We’re experiencing hotter days for longer periods of time as the climate changes. People with certain autoimmune disorders that flare up in response to certain environmental factors may face difficulties as a result of this. According to the medical specialists I spoke with, lupus can be induced by exposure to UV rays in intense sunlight.

Some evidence suggests relationships between pain and relative humidity, pressure and wind speed. For those suffering from arthritis, more frequent powerful storms may mean more potential for pain. Yet other data negates these findings, such as the study that found no relation between rainfall and outpatient visits for joint or back pain. Still, these researchers concede the weather-pain correlation may exist and they urge additional study.

What is the relationship between infectious disease and climate change?
The loss of biodiversity has become a major issue. Humans are affected by even the tiniest changes and disruptions to wildlife’s natural habitats. We’re all a part of the same thing.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. David Morens, two infectious disease experts, warn that pandemics are becoming more common in a report published in September 2020. “Yet another reminder that human activities constitute aggressive, destructive, and imbalanced interactions with wildlife and will increasingly create new disease problems,” they said of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Many types of vector-borne diseases are affected by changes in the environment. Like Lyme disease. Ticks become more of a problem in northern latitudes as temperatures increase, which implies we could see Lyme disease in places where people don’t expect it. Given how difficult it may be to identify Lyme, this could be a problem.

Mosquitoes bring additional concerns. More flooding increases their prevalence and the risk of them transmitting diseases.
Then there is the waterborne flesh-eating bacteria.
Rising water temperatures are believed to have brought deadly bacteria to previously unaffected waters. The Vibrio species, for example, can invade the body through any tiny opening in the skin, rapidly causing severe illness and even death.
One 2018 study found that the yearly case counts of all Vibrio infections increased by 41% between 1996 and 2005. Swimming in coastal waters off Florida, Maryland and the Delaware Bay has led to numerous cases.

What are the effects of global warming on allergies?
The allergy season has grown longer, says Schneider. There are more pollens that can be bothersome on days when there is no frost. Scientists are also debating whether the presence of more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased the intensity of pollen.

Other allergens that are affected by the weather are molds, which are increased by more frequent storms, heavy flooding, and moist days.
Allergies are also a common cause of asthma attacks. Thunderstorms and smoke from wildfires can both cause asthma. It’s everything intertwined. It’s no surprise that people are concerned about the climate change. What can they do to cope? We can’t dismiss eco-anxiety, according to the psychologists and psychiatrists I spoke with. It’s based on legitimate concerns, and people are very upset by it.

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