The mental health of Bangladeshis is massively influenced by the impacts of climate change, reports CNET citing a new Lancet study, which described the trend as “alarming”.
Published on February 6, it says people who experienced higher temperatures (by 1 degree Celsius) during the two months preceding the study had a 21% higher probability of having an anxiety disorder and a 24% higher probability of having depression.
The paper, published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health, also suggested that an increase in humidity (specifically, a 1 gram of moisture increase per cubic meter of air) created a 6% higher probability of having both anxiety and depression, too.
And in terms of natural disasters, the study found climate change-induced flooding led to an increased probability of depression by 31%, anxiety by 69% and both together by a staggering 87%.
First, the researchers measured climate variables at 43 weather stations to track parameters such as seasonal temperature, humidity and flooding occurrences over two months.
Then they surveyed 7,000 citizens in both urban and rural areas first in August and September 2019, and then again in January and February 2020, to assess how subjects’ anxiety and depression changed amid weather fluctuations tied to global warming.
“We’ve now established a high-water mark that alas could soon be eclipsed for how climate can impact mental health in a highly vulnerable country. This should serve as a warning for other nations,” said Syed Shabab Wahid, lead author of the study.
This study adds to a growing body of research surrounding climate change’s impacts on mental health, highlighting once again how this crisis seems to be touching all aspects of our lives. In June of last year, the WHO presented a policy brief urging all countries to incorporate some sort of mental health support in their crisis relief plans.
“As climate change worsens, temperatures and humidity will continue to increase, as will natural disasters, such as extreme flooding, which portends worsening impact on our collective mental health, globally,” Wahid said.
But what’s especially concerning for Bangladesh is that things like temperature increases, humidity increases and excessive flooding are all bound to seriously ramp up there as climate change, driven in large part by the burning of fossil fuels, gets harsher.
Already, many coastal areas undergo cyclones twice annually due to the rate at which our planet is heating up – disasters that destroy homes and result in shocking amounts of death.
To make matters worse, many scientists say that our current climate trajectory – including progress we’ve made thus far in mitigating global warming – is really not looking good. So it’s quite likely that the mental health risks uncovered by Wahid and his fellow researchers could be hinting at a much more tragic conclusion than they seem to on the surface. Especially considering how the study was conducted several years ago, when climate change’s consequences were relatively “better,” per se.
“Our next steps are twofold. We want to develop and evaluate community-based interventions that are culturally appropriate for Bangladesh, such as offering mental health services to climate-affected communities, of which there are many throughout the country,” Wahid said.
“We also plan to conduct further research in Bangladesh,” he said. “And globally on the associations identified in this study using longer-term approaches to narrow down the causes and effects of climate changes on mental health.”
However, it’s worth noting that for vulnerable countries such as Bangladesh to implement interventions money is a limiting step.
It’s not always easy to find financial support when most of your nation’s climate budget must be spent on housing people whose homes were ravaged by cyclones and on preventing death. Per a press release published last year by the World Bank – an organization that helped fund Wahid’s study – average tropical cyclones cost Bangladesh about $1 billion annually.