Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

The unseen effects of Climate Change on Mental Health


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: What is schizophrenia?

Mains level: Key concerns on health due to Extreme Heat as per the report

Why in the News? 

Studies show that individuals with schizophrenia are more likely to experience fatal effects from extreme heat compared to those with kidney or heart problems as per Geo Health report.

What is schizophrenia? 

As per the National Institute of Mental Health, Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality, which can be distressing for them and their family and friends.

Effects of Extreme Heat  as per the Geo Health Report:

  • Schizophrenia Heat-Related Deaths: GeoHealth in 2023 revealed that an extreme heat event in British Columbia in 2021 led to more fatalities among individuals with schizophrenia compared to those with kidney and heart diseases.
  • Mental Health Conditions: People with mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, were identified as being at higher risk of succumbing to heat-related deaths during extreme heat events.
  • Impact of Extreme Heat Event: British Columbia experienced an eight-day extreme heat event in 2021, with temperatures soaring as high as 40 degrees celsius, significantly above the average temperature of around 20 degrees celsius. The region recorded approximately 740 excess deaths during this heat wave.
    • Researchers analyzed the data based on various medical conditions, including heart disease, schizophrenia, chronic kidney disease, dementia, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and osteoporosis.
  • Higher Risk of Schizophrenia: Contrary to expectations, the study reported a 200% increase in the prevalence of schizophrenia diagnoses during the extreme heat event in 2021 compared to a summer without recorded heat waves.

 Key challenges for treating Schizophrenia:

  • Dysfunction of the Hypothalamus: The dysfunction of the hypothalamus, a structure deep in the brain responsible for maintaining bodily homeostasis, may contribute to increased vulnerability to heat stress among individuals with schizophrenia.
  • Impact of Antipsychotic Medications: Certain antipsychotic medications prescribed for schizophrenia can interfere with the functioning of the hypothalamus, potentially raising body temperature. This side effect, when combined with high ambient temperatures, can lead to fatal outcomes.
  • Psychotic Symptoms and Anosognosia (unable to be aware of the symptoms): Individuals with schizophrenia often experience psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, and memory loss. The anosognosia, a condition where individuals are unaware of their illness can further complicate treatment efforts.

Way Forward:

  • Enhanced Monitoring and Support Systems: Implement enhanced monitoring and support systems for individuals with schizophrenia during extreme heat events.
  • Education and Awareness Campaigns: Conduct education and awareness campaigns to inform individuals with schizophrenia and their caregivers about the risks of heat-related distress and the importance of staying cool and hydrated during extreme heat events.
  • Tailored Treatment Plans: Develop tailored treatment plans for individuals with schizophrenia that take into account the potential impact of antipsychotic medications on body temperature regulation.

Mains PYQ 

Q Public health system has limitation in providing universal health coverage. Do you think that private sector can help in bridging the gap? What other viable alternatives do you suggest? (UPSC IAS/2015)

With inputs from:,for%20their%20family%20and%20friends

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