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      The Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health: A Systematic Descriptive Review


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          Climate change is one of the great challenges of our time. The consequences of climate change on exposed biological subjects, as well as on vulnerable societies, are a concern for the entire scientific community. Rising temperatures, heat waves, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, fires, loss of forest, and glaciers, along with disappearance of rivers and desertification, can directly and indirectly cause human pathologies that are physical and mental. However, there is a clear lack in psychiatric studies on mental disorders linked to climate change.


          Literature available on PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane library until end of June 2019 were reviewed. The total number of articles and association reports was 445. From these, 163 were selected. We looked for the association between classical psychiatric disorders such as anxiety schizophrenia, mood disorder and depression, suicide, aggressive behaviors, despair for the loss of usual landscape, and phenomena related to climate change and extreme weather. Review of literature was then divided into specific areas: the course of change in mental health, temperature, water, air pollution, drought, as well as the exposure of certain groups and critical psychological adaptations.


          Climate change has an impact on a large part of the population, in different geographical areas and with different types of threats to public health. However, the delay in studies on climate change and mental health consequences is an important aspect. Lack of literature is perhaps due to the complexity and novelty of this issue. It has been shown that climate change acts on mental health with different timing. The phenomenology of the effects of climate change differs greatly—some mental disorders are common and others more specific in relation to atypical climatic conditions. Moreover, climate change also affects different population groups who are directly exposed and more vulnerable in their geographical conditions, as well as a lack of access to resources, information, and protection. Perhaps it is also worth underlining that in some papers the connection between climatic events and mental disorders was described through the introduction of new terms, coined only recently: ecoanxiety, ecoguilt, ecopsychology, ecological grief, solastalgia, biospheric concern, etc.


          The effects of climate change can be direct or indirect, short-term or long-term. Acute events can act through mechanisms similar to that of traumatic stress, leading to well-understood psychopathological patterns. In addition, the consequences of exposure to extreme or prolonged weather-related events can also be delayed, encompassing disorders such as posttraumatic stress, or even transmitted to later generations.

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          Most cited references166

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          More intense, more frequent, and longer lasting heat waves in the 21st century.

          A global coupled climate model shows that there is a distinct geographic pattern to future changes in heat waves. Model results for areas of Europe and North America, associated with the severe heat waves in Chicago in 1995 and Paris in 2003, show that future heat waves in these areas will become more intense, more frequent, and longer lasting in the second half of the 21st century. Observations and the model show that present-day heat waves over Europe and North America coincide with a specific atmospheric circulation pattern that is intensified by ongoing increases in greenhouse gases, indicating that it will produce more severe heat waves in those regions in the future.
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            Attributing physical and biological impacts to anthropogenic climate change.

            Significant changes in physical and biological systems are occurring on all continents and in most oceans, with a concentration of available data in Europe and North America. Most of these changes are in the direction expected with warming temperature. Here we show that these changes in natural systems since at least 1970 are occurring in regions of observed temperature increases, and that these temperature increases at continental scales cannot be explained by natural climate variations alone. Given the conclusions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is very likely to be due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations, and furthermore that it is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent except Antarctica, we conclude that anthropogenic climate change is having a significant impact on physical and biological systems globally and in some continents.
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              Drought under global warming: a review

              Aiguo Dai (2011)

                Author and article information

                Front Psychiatry
                Front Psychiatry
                Front. Psychiatry
                Frontiers in Psychiatry
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                06 March 2020
                : 11
                : 74
                [1] 1 Department of Neurosciences, Institute of Psychiatry, Catholic University , Rome, Italy
                [2] 2 Institute of Psychopathology , Rome, Italy
                [3] 3 Fondazione Policlinico Universitario A. Gemelli, IRCCS , Rome, Italy
                Author notes

                Edited by: Konstantin Loganovsky, National Academy of Medical Science of Ukraine, Ukraine

                Reviewed by: Maria Teresa Avella, University of Pisa, Italy; Batul Hanife, Azienda Provinciale per i Servizi Sanitari, Italy

                *Correspondence: Paolo Cianconi, pcianco@ 123456gmail.com

                This article was submitted to Public Mental Health, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry

                Copyright © 2020 Cianconi, Betrò and Janiri

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                : 07 August 2019
                : 28 January 2020
                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 165, Pages: 15, Words: 8798
                Systematic Review

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                climate change,mental health,resilience,migration,vulnerability,climatic and economic turmoil,extreme events


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