Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Extreme heat can impact your mind, not just the body: Here is how


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Heatwaves

Mains level: Heatwaves carry a dual impact: physical discomfort and psychological distress, coping strategies


What’s the news?

  • As heatwaves grow fiercer and more frequent, their influence on mental health becomes undeniable, prompting experts to explore the intricate connections.

Central idea

  • In recent times, the intensifying and prolonged heatwaves have gone beyond scorching temperatures and have started to scorch minds as well. The impact of soaring temperatures on mental health has gained newfound recognition, necessitating a deeper examination of the interplay between climate change and our psychological well-being.

What are Heat Waves?

  • Heatwaves generally occur in India between March and June.
  • IMD declares a heatwave event when the maximum daytime temperature for a location in the plains crosses 40 degrees Celsius.
  • Over the hills, the threshold temperature is 30 degrees Celsius.

What is meant by Climate Distress?

  • Climate Distress is a term coined to describe a range of emotions triggered by the environmental changes brought about by climate change.
  • It encompasses feelings such as anxiety, terror, sadness, shame, and guilt, all of which stem from the recognition of the broader consequences of climate change

Frequency of Heatwaves in India

  • Increase in frequency and intensity: India has been witnessing an increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves in recent years.
  • For instance: In April and May 2022, around 350 million Indians were exposed to strong heat stress. On average, six heat wave events occur every year in the northern parts of the country.
  • Rise in summer temperatures as well as winter temperatures: Summer temperatures have risen by an average of 0.5–0.9 °C across districts in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Rajasthan between 1990 and 2019. In addition, around 54% of India’s districts have seen a similar rise in winter temperatures.
  • Temperature rise projection: It is expected that between 2021 and 2050, the maximum temperature will rise by 2–3.5 °C in 100 districts and by 1.5–2°C in around 455 districts. Winter temperatures will also rise between 1°C and 1.5°C in around 485 districts.

Heatwaves: The Looming Threat

  • Studies have uncovered alarming correlations between elevated temperatures and a rise in suicides, violent crimes, aggression, hospitalizations for mental disorders, and even mortality.
  • Patients with conditions like schizophrenia, dementia, psychosis, and substance use disorders are particularly vulnerable.
  • For every 1-degree Celsius increase, the risk of death among patients with such disorders rises by nearly 5%.
  • A seminal study analyzed data from over 2 million individuals with private insurance, revealing a spike in emergency department visits for mental health issues during the hottest days of summer.


The Physical-Mental Connection

  • Heat’s influence isn’t confined to discomfort; it sets off a cascade of physiological changes that translate into emotional and mental shifts.
  • Increased heart rates due to heat can lead to heightened anxiety.
  • The neurotransmitter serotonin, linked to mood regulation, anxiety, and depression, also affects temperature perception.
  • Certain drugs can amplify heat’s impact on body temperature regulation, such as common medications for schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder.

Heatwaves: The Potent Agents of Psychological Distress

  • Rise in Suicides and Violent Crimes: Research has uncovered a striking connection between heatwaves and a surge in suicides, violent crimes, and aggression. Studies have reported a 0.7% increase in suicides linked to rising temperatures. Additionally, a 4% to 6% increase in interpersonal violence, including homicides, has been observed during heatwaves.
  • Aggravation of Mental Illnesses: Conditions like anxiety, schizophrenia, and depression are exacerbated by heatwaves. Irritability, anger, and anxiety intensify, making symptom management challenging.
  • Sleep Impact: Heatwaves disrupt sleep patterns, impacting mental health. Disturbed sleep leads to mood disorders, anxiety, and cognitive impairment.
  • Vulnerable Groups: Older adults, adolescents, and those with preexisting mental issues are especially vulnerable. Physiological vulnerabilities worsen their mental distress during heatwaves.
  • Physiological Stress Response: Heatwaves trigger increased heart rates, heightening anxiety levels. The physiological stress response amplifies emotional arousal.
  • Medication Interaction: Mental health medications interacting with heat worsen physical and mental effects, exacerbating psychological distress.
  • Routine Disruption and Isolation: Heatwaves disrupt routines and limit social interactions, fostering loneliness and frustration, amplifying psychological distress.
  • Climate Change Impact: Heatwaves are part of climate change’s wider impact, contributing to environmental uncertainty. This awareness triggers anxiety, fear, and helplessness.

Coping Strategies

  • Recognizing the Reality: Understanding that the threats posed by heatwaves and climate change are real is the first step. Acknowledging the potential impact on mental health helps individuals prepare and seek appropriate support.
  • Traditional Coping Strategies: While traditional coping strategies like cognitive behavioral therapy and medications are valuable, the unique nature of climate distress requires acknowledging that the threat is tangible and not just a matter of perception.
  • Advocating for Change: Channeling distress into advocacy can be empowering. Participating in climate initiatives and advocating for policies addressing the root causes of climate change can provide a sense of purpose.
  • Fostering Resilience: Building resilience through mindfulness techniques and stress reduction practices can help individuals manage the anxiety and fear associated with climate distress.


  • Heatwaves carry a dual impact: physical discomfort and psychological distress. Recognizing and addressing the mental health implications of climate change is an urgent endeavor. As our understanding evolves, it becomes imperative to support individuals and communities in navigating the profound mental effects of escalating temperatures.

Also read:

Heat domes, anticyclones and climate change: What’s causing heat waves across the world?

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