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Summer Heat and Human Behavior

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

It is now a well-known fact that weather conditions impact on how people feel and function in their daily lives. In some cases the weather affects physical and emotional health.

During the winter months it’s called SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Gray skies, snow, cold temperatures and a lack of sunlight, because many people to feel depressed during the winter months. These same people experience a boost in mood with the advent of spring and its increasing amount of sunlight and warmer temperatures.

At present, during the summer of 2012 there is an intense heat wave covering much of the United States. This has caused alarm among the health and mental health community. There are a host of heat related illnesses that are seriousness enough to result in hospitalization and death. Among these are dehydration, heat stroke, increased blood pressure and many other illnesses.

There are also some serious mental health issues that result from the heat. This is evidenced by the fact that there is an increase in psychiatric hospitalizations during the summer months. There is also an increase in suicide attempts, acts of violence, increased irritable and angry mood. Hot weather also causes people to feel tired and unmotivated to do very much.

There are many types of medications that make it necessary for people to remain in air conditioned environments. For example, for those who take anti-psychotic medications, the sensitivity to heat is increased. There are other medications that make it necessary to limit exposure to sunlight, particularly for those who want to go to the beach. Whether medication is for psychiatric or some other health problem it’s essential that patients consult with their physician about the side effects of heat and sunlight.

Older people, especially those who are 65n years of age and older, are especially vulnerable to the impact health has on health and mental health.

Generally, it is recommended for all of us to drink a lot of water or other liquids to prevent dehydration. Some of the drinks recommended for athletes are a good idea. It’s a good idea to limit coffee and alcohol because they tend to dehydrate. If it’s necessary to go out, wearing a hat is a good idea as well as going out during the morning or evening when temperatures cool and the sun is not intense. For those who must work outside, consult your doctor about how best to protect your health during a heat wave.

Stay cool, both physically and mentally.

Your comments are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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