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Heat Waves Take a Toll on People's Mental Health: Study

Update Date: Jul 07, 2012 06:34 AM EDT

According to experts, the effect of rising temperatures can be seen not only on the bodies of people, but also on their mental health. They say that in hot weather, rates of suicide attempts see a rise.

While for some people, an extremely hot weather may mean an irritable mood, for some others, the consequences are much more severe.

According to Dr. Len Cortes, number of patients seeking psychiatric help also goes up during summer.

The mental health ward of the Windsor Regional Hospital, currently is seeing a rush of patients.

"Essentially, what's occurring is that the neurotransmitters, the chemicals in the brain, are probably going off balance. When chemicals in the brain go off balance, it will cause difficulties in what the brain does," he explained. "And what the brain does is, it helps us with our mood, so our mood is set off. The brain helps us keep our anxiety under control so [during heat] people have difficulties with anxiety."

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, late July and August have the highest suicide rate out of all the months of the year, reports CBC.

"During heat waves there's an increase in suicide, and there's an increase in aggressive behaviour," Cortese said. "Again, it's the stress of the heat that's affecting the brain."

In order to protect the mind from getting affected due to the heat waves and to keep one's temperature under control, Cortese said, the best remedy is to keep oneself busy and engaged in the things they like to do the most.

Also, hot weather gets people easily tired, even when they might not be exerting themselves a lot.

"As you get hot, your central nervous system tends to get depressed. But that's not depression. It just doesn't work as hard, so you feel fatigued," Kevin Milne is a kinesiology professor at the University of Windsor said. "And that's why people tend to feel lazy on hot days."

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