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Neurological Disorders Could Worsen Due To Climate Change, According To Study



A research team lead by UCL contends that the impacts of climate change on weather patterns and unfavorable weather events are likely to have a detrimental impact on the health of individuals with brain disorders.

The team highlights the critical need to comprehend how climate change affects individuals with neurological diseases in a Personal View piece that was published in The Lancet Neurology. This is to protect these individuals’ health and avoid exacerbating already-existing disparities.

The researchers, lead by Professor Sanjay Sisodiya of the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, stated that they anticipate a significant impact from climate change on neurological disorders after reviewing 332 studies that were published worldwide between 1968 and 2023.

They took into account 19 distinct nervous system disorders, including multiple sclerosis, stroke, migraines, Alzheimer’s, meningitis, and epilepsy, that were selected based on data from the Global Burden of Disease 2016 survey.

The group also examined how climate change may affect a number of common yet important mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, sadness, and anxiety.

Professor Sisodiya, who founded Epilepsy Climate Change and serves as the Director of Genomics at the Epilepsy Society, stated that there is ample evidence linking some brain disorders, particularly infections of the nervous system and stroke, to changes in climate. Extremes of temperature, both high and low, and more temperature change throughout the day—especially when these parameters were abnormal for the season—were found to have an impact on brain illnesses.

“Nighttime temperatures may be particularly important, as higher temperatures through the night can disrupt sleep. Poor sleep is known to aggravate a number of brain conditions.”

The researchers discovered that greater ambient temperatures or heat waves were associated with an increase in stroke-related hospitalizations, disabilities, or fatality.

Meanwhile, the team notes that because cognitive impairment can hinder an individual’s ability to adapt behavior to environmental changes, people with dementia are vulnerable to injury from extremes of temperature (e.g., heat-related sickness or hypothermia) and meteorological disasters (e.g., flooding or wildfires).

“Reduced awareness of risk is combined with a diminished capacity to seek help or to mitigate potential harm, such as by dressing more comfortably or drinking more in hot weather,” the researchers write. Frailty, multimorbidity, and psychiatric drugs exacerbate this susceptibility. Consequently, higher mortality and hospital admission rates linked to dementia are caused by increased temperature variance, hotter days, and heat waves.”

Additionally, very hot and cold temperatures, daily temperature changes, and elevated ambient temperature are linked to higher rates of various mental health issues, hospital admissions, and mortality.

The researchers observe that populations are being exposed to worsening environmental factors that may not have been severe enough to affect brain conditions in some of the earlier studies they reviewed as part of the analysis, but are becoming more frequent as global temperatures rise and adverse weather events become more severe.

They say that because of this, it’s critical to make sure that research is current and takes into account both the present and the future effects of climate change.

According to Professor Sisodiya, “This work is taking place against a worrying worsening of climatic conditions and it will need to remain agile and dynamic if it is to generate information that is of use to both individuals and organizations. Moreover, there are few studies estimating health consequences on brain diseases under future climate scenarios, making forward planning challenging.”

He continued, “The whole concept of climate anxiety is an added, potentially weighty influence: Many brain conditions are associated with higher risk of psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, and such multimorbidities can further complicate impacts of climate change and the adaptations necessary to preserve health. But there are actions we can and should take now.”


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