Research, Technology

Mortal danger: why people with mental illness need to avoid heat

In recent years, almost every summer wewe hear about the abnormal heat that has engulfed a particular region. 2021 has been a particularly hot year for the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures in Canada hit a historic high of 49.6 degrees Celsius. The heat lasted for a week, leading to many deaths. In British Columbia alone (a province in western Canada), 600 people died from the heat. It is believed that the most vulnerable categories of people to heat are the elderly, as well as people with overweight, cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. However, a recent study showed that there is another category of people who are even more vulnerable to heat than all of the above - people with schizophrenia.

Heat is more dangerous for people with schizophrenia than for people with cardiovascular disease

Mentally ill people are at high risk of dying from the heat

To understand what chronic diseasesmost increase the risk of death during a heat wave, scientists studied the medical records of more than 1,500 people who died during a heat wave in Canada in 2021, which arose due to a heat dome. They also examined the causes of death and medical histories of more than 6,500 people who died on the same days, but over the previous 9 years.

The data covered 26 chronic diseases,начиная от сердечно-сосудистых болезней, и заканчивая деменцией и остеопорозом. При этом ученые не рассчитывали, что получат какие-то новые данные. Главными факторами риска, по их мнению, должны были стать сердечно-сосудистые заболевания и болезни почек.

During the heat wave in Canada in 2021, people with schizophrenia had a 200% increased risk of death

The work showed that patients withFor cardiovascular disease, the risk of death during the heat wave was increased by 18%, this figure is even higher in people with kidney disease - during the heat of 2021 they died 36% more often. But the highest risk of death was in people with mental illness. First of all, this concerned people with schizophrenia - their risk of death was increased by 200%.

Of all the people who died during the hot week inCanada, 8% suffered from schizophrenia. In other years, people diagnosed with schizophrenia, among those who died during the same period of time, were only 2.7 percent. But an even larger percentage of people with schizophrenia were among those who died, whose deaths in 2021 were attributed to high temperatures, according to medical services. There were more than 13% of such people. The authors of the work report this in the journal GeoHealth.

It must be said that scientists have previously carried outstudies that indicated a high risk of death from heat for people with schizophrenia, but they were ignored. For example, in Phoenix, the state capital of Arizona, a clear relationship was found between high temperatures and hospitalizations of people with schizophrenia. However, during heat waves, the government and health workers do not pay attention to mentally ill people, trying to save people from other vulnerable categories first.

In schizophrenia, the hypothalamus, which is responsible for thermoregulation of the body, is often damaged.

Why people with schizophrenia often die from the heat

The exact reason why people with schizophreniaturned out to be the most vulnerable, scientists still do not know, since studies on this subject have not yet been conducted, but there are some assumptions. According to one of them, the hypothalamus is often affected in schizophrenia. This part of the brain is responsible for thermoregulation through sweating. Accordingly, due to its damage, the body cannot withstand high temperatures.

In addition, some antipsychoticsdrugs that are prescribed for this disease can increase body temperature. Combined with extreme heat, this can be deadly. Plus, the disease affects the ability to make informed decisions or feel unwell. Also, do not forget that schizophrenia is often associated with isolation and homelessness.

High mortality from heat may be associated with drugs prescribed for mental illness

But, whatever the reason, the results of thisresearch suggests that people with mental illness need special attention during heatwaves. Especially considering that the situation with the temperature in summer will worsen every year due to global warming.

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The results of this study, althoughsurprisingly for scientists, it has long been known that global warming is generally more dangerous for human health than the coronavirus pandemic. The situation with patients with schizophrenia is another confirmation of this.