Project area or title
Synergistic effect of extreme temperature and air pollution on mental health inequality: Time for action
Climate change is causing a rise in heatwave frequency, leading to tens of thousands of premature deaths and significant mental health issues globally each year. These effects are particularly pronounced among vulnerable and less advantaged groups. The projected increase in heatwaves could strain NHS services, hinder economic growth, and worsen health inequalities.
Historically, studies on climate and health have focused on physical health and communicable diseases, overlooking the impacts on mental disorders like depression. The complexity of these impacts is amplified by confounders like humidity and population vulnerability, and modifiers like air pollution, all crucial to devising effective adaptation and mitigation strategies. The combined risk of extreme temperature and air pollution exposure is more than triple the sum of individual risks on mortality, yet the specific effects on mental health remain unexplored.
This project aims to bridge this knowledge gap by examining the nuanced impacts of temperature extremes and air pollution on mental health, with a focus on vulnerable populations. Utilizing traditional epidemiological and novel causal machine learning methods, we will establish Exposure–Response functions correlating extreme temperature, humidity, population vulnerability, and air pollution with mental health in the West Midlands. Our existing meteorological and air quality data, coupled with the CPRD dataset, will support this analysis.
In collaboration with regional and local public health officers, to whom we are extensively connected, the insights gleaned will inform the development of targeted adaptation plans to mitigate the adverse health impacts of climate change.
Common Mental Health (covering anxiety, depression)
University of Birmingham