Extreme Heat Tied to Higher ED Use for Mental Health Issues

Findings seen across psychiatric diagnoses, with stronger association noted among men
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MONDAY, March 7, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Days of extreme heat are associated with higher rates of mental health-related emergency department visits, according to a study published online Feb. 23 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Amruta Nori-Sarma, Ph.D., from the Boston University School of Public Health, and colleagues investigated the association between ambient heat and mental health-related emergency department visits. Medical claims data were used to identify adults with a primary or secondary discharge psychiatric diagnosis during warm-season months (May to September) from 2010 through 2019 in 2,775 U.S. counties. The analysis included nearly 3.5 million emergency department visits among 2.2 million unique individuals.

The researchers found that days of extreme heat were associated with a higher incidence of emergency visits for any mental health condition (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 1.08). Specifically, associations were seen between extreme heat and emergency visits for substance use disorders (IRR, 1.08); anxiety, stress-related, and somatoform disorders (IRR, 1.07); mood disorders (IRR, 1.07); schizophrenia, schizotypal, and delusional disorders (IRR, 1.05); self-harm (IRR, 1.06); and childhood-onset behavioral disorders (IRR, 1.11). Associations were higher among men (IRR, 1.10) and in the Northeast (IRR, 1.10), Midwest (IRR, 1.11), and Northwest (IRR, 1.12) regions.

"This finding may be informative for clinicians providing mental health services during periods of extreme heat to prepare for increases in health service needs when times of extreme heat are anticipated," the authors write.

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