What is the Effect of Heat Waves on Psychiatric Populations?

Demographic Chart

At the moment there is a heatwave in the UK. The UK government has announced an Amber alert. A natural question for a Psychiatrist to ask, is what is the relationship between heatwaves and mental illness?

I came across this paper by Oudin Åström and colleagues. The researchers look at the effects of a heatwave in Rome, Italy and Stockholm, Sweden on the mortality of the population aged 50+ and then analyse this according to the subgroups.

In terms of heatwaves, the authors define this as

a heat wave as two consecutive days with temperatures exceeding the 95th percentile of the MAT

where MAT is the Maximum Apparent Temperature.

The researchers used population registers and looked at the diagnosis on admission in order to classify subpopulations.

There was found to be an increase in mortality across different subpopulations during heatwaves.

What I found particularly interesting were the mortality rates for psychiatric subpopulations. In Rome, the relative risk of mortality (heat wave days v non heat-wave days) in the Psychiatric subpopulation was 1.21 (95% CI 1.06-1.38) and 1.28 in women. In Stockholm the relative risk was 1.33 (95% CI of 1.1-1.61) and in women was 1.40.

Whilst the authors emphasise the importance of using these results to prepare for future heatwaves, the aetiology for the increase is unclear.

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Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

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