Can Climate Change Drive You Crazy?

| Thu Dec. 3, 2009 8:07 PM EST

Trying to figure out why you're losing your mind this holiday season? It could be the fact that you've heard Jessica and Ashlee Simpson's rendition of "The Little Drummer Boy" three times in Walgreen's since Thanksgiving like I have. Or it could be climate change! King's College London psychiatrists recently published a metastudy of how the many charming side effects of rising temperatures—natural disasters, infectious diseases, mass migration—can really harsh your mental mellow, to say the least. Here are just a few of the ways in which global warming could drive you to distraction:

  • Natural disasters, such as floods, cyclones and droughts, are predicted to increase as a consequence of climate change. Adverse psychiatric outcomes are well documented in the aftermaths of natural disasters and include post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression and somatoform disorders.
  • Adverse impacts such as psychological distress, anxiety and traumatic stress resulting from emerging infectious disease outbreaks are also likely to increase if the predicted outbreaks of serious infectious diseases become reality.
  • Coastal change and increased flooding is expected to lead to forced mass migration and displacement, which will undoubtedly lead to more mental illness in affected population.
  • Urbanisation, a phenomenon which will be partially beneficial, for example by increasing opportunities for work and better access to health services, is associated with an increased incidence of schizophrenia in developed countries. In many low- and middle-income countries, mental health provision is already hugely inadequate and is unlikely to be prioritised should further economic collapse occur secondary to climate change.
  • The knowledge of man-made climate change could in itself have adverse effects on individual psychological well-being.

Surprisingly, the study doesn't mention another kind of climate change craziness: denial. And all its attendant weirdness