Common belief goes that when temperatures rise, so does anger.
But that’s not always necessarily true, say mental health professionals. It depends on a number of factors.
Dr. James Jura, medical director for The Center said there is a spike in hospital admissions related to psychiatric conditions during a heat wave.
“We know that admissions to hospitals for psychiatric conditions will tend to spike after a heat wave but whether that’s because the heat makes the bi-polar and other mood disorders worse or whether because it’s uncomfortable if we’re outside ... we’re not sure if it’s a cause or an effect,” Jura said.
A recent Toronto study found that temperatures above 82 degrees were associated with increased rates of emergency room visits for mental-health related conditions.
“If you’re on certain psychiatric medicines, predominately the anti-psychotics or some older type of antidepressants called tricyclic antidepressants, you have a higher risk during high heat of having some complications and problems,” Jura said.
Juanita Constible, a senior advocate on climate and health and climate and clean energy, wrote on her blog for the Natural Resources Defense Council that in addition to the physical effects of certain medications on thermoregulation, higher temperatures may add to the existing stresses of daily life.
“This can increase the likelihood of risky behaviors, resulting in the increased rates of emergency room visits,” Constible wrote.
Extreme heat can make anyone feel worse, not just those with pre-existing medical conditions. Jura said a rise in violence during extreme heat may come from being inside more during the winter months and not coming in contact with someone we may have a problem with.
“How much of that is the actual heat causing the violence, there’s definitely a correlation, but whether it’s a causation is unclear. I suspect it’s maybe a little more likely because we all tend to get irritable and upset when we’re really uncomfortable, and excessive heat can be very uncomfortable,” Jura said.