Climate Change Could Hit Mentally Ill Hard

LONDON, Dec. 7 (UPI) — Two British psychiatrists say a review of research indicates climate change will have major negative impacts on mental illness.

Dr. Lisa Page and Dr. Louise Howard of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London reviewed recent research on the mental health impact of climate change.

The review, published in Psychological Medicine, concludes the overall burden of mental disorder worldwide will increase — including adverse psychiatric outcome such as post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression in the aftermath of predicted natural disasters such as floods and droughts.

“Climate change is assuming center stage with the upcoming U.N. conference in Copenhagen [Denmark],” Page said in a statement. “While delegates will discuss the effects of climate change and possible responses by the international governments, we fear that the effects of climate change on mental health will be largely ignored, posing a tremendous risk to the mental health of millions of people in the not-too-distant future.”

The researchers say the potential significant negative effects will be felt most by those with pre-existing serious mental illness, including a greater number of heat-related deaths due to contributing risk factors — such as psychotropic medication, pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease, substance misuse, maladaptive coping mechanisms and poor quality housing — all highly prevalent in people with serious mental illness.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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