New study shows how depression rises with the temperature
New research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences used survey data from 2 million Americans to examine the links between climate change and mental health issues.
- The study examined survey data reported by 2 million Americans between 2002 and 2012.
- The results showed that hotter and wetter months were associated with increases in mental health issues like stress and depression.
- Women and low-income Americans seem to have been most affected by the weather changes.
The United Nations' top climate science panel recently warned that the world would see "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes" if global temperatures rise 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial averages in coming years. Such an increase would likely be catastrophic for millions of people, particularly those who live in island nations or along the world's coasts.
Now, new research suggests rising temperatures could also have similarly disastrous effects on mental health.
The link between weather and mental health
A paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that exposure to hotter temperatures, increased precipitation and tropical cyclones was associated with an increase in mental health issues. These effects will likely hit women and low-income Americans the hardest, according to the research team led by Nick Obradovich, a data scientist at the MIT Media Lab.
"If we push global temperature rise into the 2 degrees-plus Celsius range, the impacts on human well-being, including mental health, may be catastrophic," Obradovich told Inverse.
The team analyzed self-reported data of 2 million Americans who responded to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a health survey, between 2002 and 2012. This survey, which included a location for each respondent, asked people to rate how stress, depression, and "problems with emotions" had affected their mental health over the past 30 days. The researchers then cross-referenced respondents' answers with their location and weather records.
They found that, on average, people were slightly more likely to experience mental health problems during months in which the average temperature exceeded 86 degrees compared to months when average temperatures hovered between 50 and 59 degrees. The results showed less of a contrast in months when the average temperatures ranged from 77 to 86 degrees, suggesting that mental health issues increase as temperatures rise.
The results also showed that months in which there were more than 25 days of precipitation were linked to a 2-percent increase in the probability of mental health issues. What does more rain have to do with climate change? Rising temperatures leads to more evaporation, which puts more water vapor in the atmosphere where it'll eventually come back to Earth as precipitation. The evaporation of more and hotter water also leads to an increase in tropical storms.
Image: Climate Central
Women and low-income Americans affected most
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey data showed that people hit by hurricanes between 2002 and 2012 were 4 percent more likely to experience mental health issues compared to Americans not affected by tropical storms.
Lastly, the team compared the links between weather and mental health along lines of gender and wealth, finding that females and low-income Americans were both 60 percent more likely to experience mental health issues during the hottest months compared to males and high-income Americans, respectively.
Still, the team cautioned that the study results revealed correlations and not necessarily causes.
"We can't be sure," Obradovich told Inverse. "It could be via the impacts of heat on sleep, on daily mood, on physical activity rates, on heat-related illness, on cognitive performance, or any complex combination of the above. Unfortunately, these processes are so complex that we can't easily identify precisely which mechanism is driving our results."
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
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