You might have more to worry about than a sunburn when temperatures climb toward the blistering end of the thermometer.
A study by researchers at the University of Georgia found that hotter weather is associated with an increase in emotional distress, such as stress and depression. Scientists say it’s a concerning finding as global warming has already caused a significant increase in temperatures since record-keeping began in 1880.
The study used survey data developed under the auspices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that asked U.S. residents from across the nation a simple question: How many days in the last 30 has your mental health not been good?
The responses from more than 3 million people were then matched with county-level weather data. As the mercury climbed, reports of having a bad mental health day increased compared with a temperature range of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. And conversely, the probability decreased as the days got cooler. The correlation was especially notably as temps climbed above 80 degrees … and if those sizzling days lasted 10 days or more.
Heat stress plays havoc with our bodies, causing problems such as heat rash, muscle cramps and issues with the nervous system. And heat can lead to lost sleep or force us indoors, which might make some of us pretty cranky. Exercise has been shown to improve mental health.
The worst part for people living in hot climates like the American South: Researchers notice the odds of bad mental health days increased significantly in hot parts of the country.
It’s another reminder that as much as we all enjoy being out in the sun, we must take care to protect ourselves from overexposure.