The effects of worsening human-induced climate change could be greater than the widely reported effects of sea-level rise, higher temperatures, and impacts on food supplies and migration — and that in the United States. It can even go as far as affecting mental health in high schools.

According to a representative survey of 38,616 high school students from 22 public school districts in 14 U.S. states, a quarter of the youth who spent the most days during a weather disaster in the past two years and the past five years — such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, droughts and wildfires — were 20% more likely to develop mental distress than their peers who had experienced few or no disaster events.

The paper is the first major study to look at adolescent mental health after multiple disaster events – including the timing, frequency and duration of the events – in 83 federally declared climate disasters within the 10 years before the survey was completed. It covers The findings, using May 2019 data on sadness/hopelessness and poor sleep from the US Youth Risk Behavior Survey and disaster data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, were published in the journal this month. Preventive medicine reports.

“We know that climate change has and will have catastrophic effects around the world,” said lead author Amy Auchencloss, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Dornsife School of Public Health. “But we were alarmed to find that climate-related disasters are already affecting many young people in the U.S. For example, in the past 2 years, many school districts in our study had more than 20 days of absence. were prone to climatic disasters for a long time.”

Respondents positively reported having persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness and short sleep duration, two factors that previous studies have strongly linked to poor mental health in youth. The group controlled for other factors that may influence mental health, such as age, race, gender, experience with bullying, concerns about school safety and household income.

The US Youth Risk Survey also found a positive, but not statistically significant, association between climate disasters and mental distress spanning the previous ten years.

“We found the strongest effects of mental distress in the 2 years immediately following a climate disaster — with the effect gradually weakening 5 to 10 years after the disaster,” said co-author Josiah Kaffert, PhD, of the Dornseff School of Medicine. I am an assistant professor. of public health.

Because the findings can’t prove causation, the authors say they would like to see more studies on the effects of climate change on youth and ways to improve preparedness for potentially deteriorating mental health in this population.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly half of young adults have experienced a mental health disorder in their childhood or adolescence.

“Youth mental health crisis resources are already struggling to keep up with the demand, and the demand will only increase as disasters escalate,” said co-author Esther Chernak, MD, a clinical professor and the Center for Public Director of Health Readiness and Communication at Dornsife School of Public. Health. “The current study is evidence that clinicians, policymakers, parents, and many others involved in youth mental health can point to when advocating for increased adolescent-specific mental health resources. do — especially in low-income communities that will be hardest hit. disasters.”

Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health is home to important ongoing work on health and climate change. Among other projects, the school’s Urban Health Collaborative recently received National Institutes of Health funding to help establish the Drexel Climate Change and Urban Health Research Center (CCUH), which is located across the U.S. Foster is with research on the effects of climate change on health. The Urban Health in Latin America Project (SOLVERABLE-CLIMATE), of which the Dornsife School of Public Health is an institutional partner, used data from 400 cities across Latin America to examine climate change health and health inequalities. Funds research into the effects of Additional work in countries schools, in collaboration with the World Resources Institute (WRI), WRI Brasil, SALURBAL, and WRI Mexico, on the relationship between neighborhood-scale heat deaths and neighborhood social characteristics in two Brazilian cities. I try to deepen our understanding. The results of which are intended to inform public policy.

In addition to Auchincloss, additional study authors include Dominic A. Ruggiero, and Meghan T. Donnelly, who were graduate students at Drexel at the time of this work.