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What is the link between climate change and psychological health? – Science and the future

Absolute heat records were broken in 64 municipalities on July 18, 2022 in France. And a heat wave leads in many countries, especially in Western Europe, to large-scale forest fires, which firefighters are trying to contain. Pictures of burning trees and health advice intersperse the news at the moment.

The heat wave that occurred in mid-July 2022 was the second in just a month in Europe. According to scientists, the multiplication of these phenomena is a direct consequence of global warming, when greenhouse gas emissions increase in intensity, duration and frequency.

“Whatever the scenario for greenhouse gas emissions, global warming will continue for at least several decades and will be accompanied by increasingly frequent and intense heat waves,” especially in France, warned Météo France on July 30, 2022. “Without climate policy, there is a 3 in 4 chance that the annual number of heatwave days will increase by 5-25 days at the end of the century depending on the region compared to the period 1976-2005,” the agency adds.

In this context, Yousf Bunasr asked Science et Avenir on our Facebook page what link could be made between climate change and psychological health. This is our question of the week.

Between eco-anxiety and solastalgia

Faced with climate change, there can be real anxiety. Ecoanxiety is a word coined in 1997 by Véronique LaPage, a Canadian and Belgian research educator. She observed that, individually or collectively, a growing number of people feel unhealthy and often feel the need to take responsibility in the face of climate change.

Thus, eco-anxious people develop anxiety in the face of declared environmental catastrophes: climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, deforestation… This is anticipatory anxiety, born from awareness of the short-term and long-term consequences. y long-term climate change. Environmentally concerned people are fed by various scientific reports, in particular by the IPCC, as well as observations that events related to this climate change are already observable.

According to Dr. Alice Desbiol, public health physician, epidemiologist and author of Eco-Anxiety, Living Peacefully in a Damaged World, “Eco-anxiety is not a pathology, it’s a state of mind that can make you sick, but most of the time we experience with environmental anxiety, which we will qualify as adaptive.” For INSERM (National Institute of Health and Medical Research) “this is not a syndrome and not an official psychiatric diagnosis.”

However, Dr. Debiol adds that “this is a legitimate stress, and the whole point is to learn to live with this moral suffering and overcome it.” She clarifies that “sometimes we may encounter pathological eco-anxiety: there the moral suffering is too great and will require temporary psychological support, and sometimes this eco-anxiety can lead to characteristic depressive episodes, to burnout.

Solastalgia also reflects the psychological distress associated with human actions on the environment. More precisely, this term translates the malaise in the face of what is already lost, while eco-anxiety is the malaise associated with what is to come. These two problems can be felt together.

READ. What is twin sister eco-anxiety and solastalgia?

To an increase in violence?

An American study published in 2013 in the prestigious journal Science also found that warmer climates lead to increased violence. “We believe that the impacts we have identified are significant enough for us to take them seriously and question whether what we do or don’t do today can affect how cruel the world of our children will be tomorrow,” explained during AFP publications Solomon Xiang. , lead author of the study. To reach a conclusion about the relationship between higher temperatures and increased violence, scientists conducted a “meta-study”, including about sixty papers. “Climate change could dramatically increase human conflict,” the researchers say.

However, the explanation for this phenomenon remains unclear, but there are several theories. Heat can, for example, have physiological effects that lead to greater irritability and therefore a greater propensity for aggressive reactions.

With AFP

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