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How Climate Change Impacts Human Health

With natural disasters becoming daily news, and extreme weather patterns fluctuating regularly, climate change is no longer a thing of speculation. While preventative measures are still incredibly important, we are also in an era where we need to understand how this will impact us in the near term.

Even if you do not live in a coastal or high risk areas, according to recent findings, there are three ways climate change may be impacting human health already:

  1. An increase in mental health issues: a recent PNAS study found that 1°C of 5-year warming associates with a 2% point increase in the prevalence of mental health issues.1 Another study from Nature looking at climate change and suicide rates found that a rise of 1 degree Celsius in monthly temperatures correlated with a 0.68% increase in the suicide rate in the United States.2

  2. An increase in Type 2 diabetes: A BMJ article demonstrated that, on average, per 1°C increase in temperature, age-adjusted diabetes incidence increased with 0.314 (95% CI 0.194 to 0.434) per 1000.3

  3. Respiratory problems and stroke: researchers published in the Lancet estimated the risk of mortality from respiratory and ischemic disease against exposure to air pollution predominately in the world’s most populous countries. They found exposure caused 4.2 million deaths and 103.1 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) in 2015, representing 7.6% of total global deaths and 4.2% of global DALYs.4

The limitation of this research is that results are interpreted based upon the correlation between increasing temperature or air pollution and increasing prevalence of disease. With this in mind, more research should be performed to validate causality. However it raises an important question, will climate change impact more than just the physical devastations that we have seen…


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