Vietnamese researcher says that heat exposure is associated with mental illness

Harold Mandel's picture
A hot sunny day in Vietnam

Researchers in Hanoi, Vietnam say that heat exposure is associated with mental illness.

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The causes of what is referred to as mental illness are often not at all very clear. An understanding of what can cause problems with mental health can lead to better efforts at prevention and treatment. Researchers in Hanoi, Vietnam say that one cause of problems with mental health is heat.

Heat exposure is associated with mental illness

Umea University in Sweden has reported that a Vietnamese study shows heat exposure is associated with mental illness. Researchers in Hanoi, Vietnam have found in a study that hospital admissions for mental illness are significantly increased during heatwaves. This is particularly seen when exposure to extreme heat is for longer periods of time.

In this study hospital admissions for mental illness were investigated over a 5 year period between 2008-2012. It was also observed that factors such as gender, old age, and living in rural areas added to increased mental illness among vulnerable and susceptible groups of people during times of heat or exposure to extreme heat.

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There were strong associations between hospital admissions for depression and other mental illnesses and periods of high temperatures or heatwaves

Trang Phan Minh, who is a doctoral student at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Epidemiology and Global Health unit, at Umeå University, says that she was surprised to see very strong associations between hospital admissions for depression and other mental illnesses and periods of high temperatures or heatwaves. The longer the heatwaves were the more serious the problem became. The elderly were particularly sensitive to heatwaves.

In her doctoral thesis from Umeå University Trang Phan Minh wrote on the association between extreme heat and mental disorders from the perspective of Hanoi, Vietnam. It was her conclusion that this association does exist. There were stronger associations seen when the heatwaves were longer and in the elderly.

It is the position of Trang Phan Minh that as we witness an emergence of global warming phenomenon with an increase in mean temperatures the results of this study could assist policymakers and health managers in Vietnam in dealing with an associated increased risk of mental illness. In this way more resources could be directed towards protecting the most vulnerable poor poor populations and poor health groups from this risk. It seems that the lessons from this study should also be applicable to other countries where people are exposed to extremely hot weather conditions.

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