A huge analysis shows that heat spells and rains are serious mood killers. Climate change is being studied to understand how it affects mental health.
Researchers looked at how positive and negative expressions changed during extreme heat and rain. They found that during bad weather, negative feelings became more pronounced and positive feelings less so. Researchers see the consistency of the findings as a warning that people might be struggling to adapt to climate change.
There isn't much evidence of adaptation.
At the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting this week, Kelton Minor, a research scientist at Columbia University, presented a study on how new extreme events are affecting human sentiment.
Climate anxiety is on the rise as the environmental effects from burning fossil fuels get worse. Mental health related hospital visits and suicide risk have been linked to worsening heat. Researchers behind the new study wanted to understand how extreme weather brought on by climate change could affect moods and well-being.
The study authors looked at over 7 billion tweets from over 43,000 different areas. They compared the weather with the weather with the same locations on the same day.
They used dictionaries commonly used by researchers to rate language as either more positive or less positive. There is a demo of the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count available on the internet. The tool gave the text a score of 12.5 for "negative tone" after plugging in a headline from Hurricane Ida. According to the tool, the average score for negative tone is 2.34.
Minor and his colleagues found that when people lose an hour of sleep, the negative sentiment increases more than when they get an hour of sleep. There were record jumps in negative sentiment and drops in positive sentiment in 2011.
A historic heatwave in the Pacific Northwest United States and southwest Canada killed over a thousand people. According to the research done by Minor and his co-author Nick Obradovich, the negative sentiment on social media was amplified during the heat.
Minor says it was off the chart. People aren't really adapting to shifts in weather across the world according to Minor.
Climate change will make people have to brace themselves for more extreme weather. There are studies predicting record-breaking heatwaves and storms. Minor says he and his colleagues will be following those trends.