Effects of Climate Change on Our Health
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Effects of Climate Change on Our Health

Published on Nov 12, 2020 and last reviewed on Oct 13, 2022   -  6 min read


Climate change can increase existing health problems or create new ones. Read the article to know about the various risks that climate change poses to human health.

Effects of Climate Change on Our Health


Climate change is not only bad for the Earth; it is bad for our health too. Climate change, along with other factors, affects human health and disease in various ways. It not only intensifies existing health threats but will create new health problems. Everyone might not be at risk, and the effects such drastic climate change has on us depends on our age, gender, geographical location, and socioeconomic status. A recent study stated that more people would be affected by extreme weather events in the next century than previously estimated, which will potentially render 50 years of global health gains useless.

Climate change indirectly affects our health by affecting air, drinking water, food, and shelter. Some of the health problems that are linked to climate change are:

  1. With the rising temperature, the risk of heat strokes, especially in farmers and laborers, will increase.

  2. Malnutrition, hunger, and food inflation can result from a decline in crop production. Increased carbon dioxide in the air can make barley, soy, and other staple crops less nutritious.

  3. Older adults and children are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses.

  4. Power cuts during extreme weather conditions could affect hospitals and transportation systems.

  5. Freshwater supplies are threatened due to rising sea levels. Floods and storms also affect the water supply due to overflowing city sewage systems.

  6. Higher humidity and more rains will lead to more ticks, disease-causing insects, and mosquitoes.

  7. The losses due to floods, drought, and heat waves could have detrimental effects on mental health, leading to more cases of depression, anxiety, and suicide.

  8. Increased heat can make allergy seasons last longer, resulting in more respiratory diseases. And more rain can increase fungi, mold, etc.

These disruptions increase the risk of respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, premature deaths, food-borne and water-borne illnesses, and other infectious diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicted that there will be an increase of around 2,50,000 deaths every year between the years 2030 and 2050. These deaths will be from heat stress, diarrhea, malnutrition, and malaria due to climate changes.

Climate change in the last 50 years is attributed to the burning of fossil fuels, which has released huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. These gases trap additional heat in the atmosphere and affect the climate. All Countries, primarily developing and underdeveloped countries with a weak health infrastructure should be prepared to tackle climate change effects in the coming years. Steps should be taken to reduce air pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases. With the climate getting successively warmer each year, sea levels rising, glaciers melting, and precipitation patterns changing, it is high time we act to preserve and save our planet.

Air Pollution and Our Health:

With increasing smog hanging over cities, air pollution is the major contributor to climate change and a threat to our health. Vehicles, waste incineration, power generation, heating systems, etc., are the significant causes of outdoor pollution, while coal, kerosene, and other fuels for household cooking pollute indoor air. Both indoor and outdoor air pollution causes premature deaths due to chronic lung disease, heart diseases, cancer, and acute respiratory infections.

Increased air pollution results in higher levels of ozone, dust, and tiny particles in the air, which can all reduce the air quality and cause the following health or respiratory problems:

  1. Asthma.

  2. Lung inflammation.

  3. Lung cancer.

  4. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

  5. Irritation and inflammation of the upper airway.

  6. Chest pain.

  7. Heart attacks.

Allergens and Climate Change:

Warmer climates lead to more pollen concentrations in the air and also lengthens pollen seasons. So the health of people who are allergic to pollen and other allergens will worsen. Exposure to pollen can trigger:

  1. Hay fever or allergic rhinitis - The immune system in such individuals mistakenly considers pollen entering the body as pathogen and releases chemicals. This results in a runny nose, red eyes, sneezing, and other symptoms.

  2. Allergic conjunctivitis - Pollen can also result in the inflammation of the conjunctiva or the lining of the eye. The eyes become red, watery, and itchy.

  3. Asthma - Asthmatic people are more sensitive to pollen. It increases asthma attacks and hospital admissions due to respiratory illness.

Increased rain and rising temperatures can also cause the growth of mold indoors, which is also an allergen and worsens respiratory conditions.

Vector-Borne Diseases and Climate Change:

Climate is a crucial factor determining the distribution of vector-borne diseases, which are diseases caused by fleas, mosquitoes, and ticks. Seasonal and yearly climate change can result in vectors getting adapted to the changes and expanding to wider geographic ranges. The WHO warns us of an increase in insect-transmitted infections, as climate changes could increase the duration of the seasons where insects transmit diseases. An increase or decrease in rainfall patterns can also increase the risk of infections caused by mosquitoes, as they breed in stagnant water. Climate change increases the risk of the following diseases:

  1. Lyme disease.

  2. Dengue.

  3. Malaria.

  4. West Nile virus disease.

  5. Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

  6. Plague.

  7. Tularemia.

  8. Chikungunya.

  9. Chagas disease.

  10. Rift Valley fever virus.

Countries and places that are free of certain infections are also susceptible. With the combination of population growth, urbanization, international travel, and global warming, the incidence of these diseases is increasing recently.

Water-borne Diseases and Climate Change:

Droughts and reduced underground water can increase the concentration of pathogens found in water-waste. This can overwhelm water treatment plants and contaminate surface water. A lack of water can also affect the agriculture industry, leading to crop failure, starvation, malnutrition, and population displacement.

Extremely high temperatures can cause flooding of water and sewage treatment facilities, which increases the risk of water-borne diseases. The melting of polar ice sheets can release locked contaminants in coastal and ocean waters.

Food-Borne Diseases, Nutrition, and Climate Change:

Extreme climate changes can destroy crops and affect transportation and delivery of food items. These changing environmental conditions can also reduce the nutritional content of food supplies. For example, the use of pesticides can decrease the nutritional content of food, and increased carbon dioxide in the air can make barley, soy, and other staple crops less nutritious.

Drought has encouraged the spread of crop pests like locusts, whiteflies, aphids, etc., which can contaminate corn and other crops. This has also resulted in the increased use of pesticides and fungicides, which can cause a wide range of health problems.

Floods and wildfires can contaminate crops and marine life with chemicals and metals. Rising temperatures have resulted in increased sea surface temperatures, increasing the concentration of various bacteria species that can cause cholera.

Mental Health and Climate Change:

Climate change indirectly affects the psychological well-being of a person. It can have some of the most devastating effects on mental health, which is challenging to address.

Hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, and other extreme weather events create stress. Constant stress can lead to depression and other mental health conditions. They can also lead to property damage, death, chronic injury, and increase the incidence of stress-related and psychological disorders. Extremely cold or hot climates can also result in stress, worsening other health problems, especially those with a pre-existing mental illness.

Cancer and Climate Change:

The exact cause of all types of cancer is unknown, but pathogens, environmental factors, age, and genetics seem to play a role. Toxic chemicals released into the environment after heavy rainfall or floods make us susceptible to specific cancer. Air pollution also increases the risk of lung cancer. The depletion of the ozone layer increases UV exposure and temperature, making us susceptible to skin cancer and cataracts. Increased UV exposure can also elevate Vitamin D levels, which has been linked to some types of cancer.

Neurological Diseases and Climate Change:

Various environmental factors are said to play a significant role in the onset and the severity of neurological diseases. The following are the ways climate change can affect the brain and nerves:

  1. Contamination of air, water, and food with chemicals, metals, and biotoxins.

  2. Malnutrition.

  3. Indiscriminate use of pesticides.

  4. Increased algal blooms release neurotoxins in marine and freshwater, which contaminates seafood and can cause serious brain degradation and even death when consumed.

Increased Heat-Related Conditions:

Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can cause heat strokes, muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, worsening respiratory and heart conditions, and death.

COVID-19 and Climate Change:

COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease 2019) is a zoonotic disease, meaning the causative virus is passed from animals to humans. There is a rise in such diseases in the last 10 years, and scientists believe that environmental factors are to blame, including climate change. Sudden temperature and humidity changes facilitate the spread of such diseases. Deforestation can increase the migration of animals and their proximity to humans, facilitating the transmission of viruses from one animal to another and humans.

Who Is at Risk of Developing Health Problems Due to Climate Change?

Everyone is likely to experience the effects of climate change, but certain areas are more at risk, such as coastal, mountainous, and polar regions, small islands, and developing countries. Similarly, certain groups of people are more at risk, which includes:

  • Children in developing countries.

  • Older adults.

  • Individuals with pre-existing health conditions.

  • Socially isolated individuals.

Climate change might pose significant risks to human health in other ways that are not listed here. Natural disasters can cause injury, increased risk of infection, mental health issues, and death. Increased pollution, allergens, and toxins can all lead to chronic respiratory and heart issues. There is an urgent need to address climate change to help limit these health effects.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Can Climate Change Affect Mental Health?

Climate change and increasing temperatures are causing an increase in the levels of pollutants and allergens present in the air, which ultimately leads to worsened air quality. Evidence shows that poor air quality can negatively impact one’s mental health and even lead to anxiety and depression.


How Can a Green Environment Affect Mental Health?

Expanding a green environment, especially in urban areas, can increase peace and happiness for the people residing there. Color psychologists believe that humans have emotional responses to the color green. They stated that people experience stability, relaxation, tranquility, and joy when they are surrounded by the color green.


How Can Environmental Factors Cause Mental Illness?

In today’s era, people are always exposed to different types of environments, such as green space, air pollution, noise pollution, weather conditions, and housing conditions. These conditions can trigger mental disorders and often lead to stress, anxiety, and depression.


How Can Climate Change Cause Anxiety?

Climate anxiety, also called eco-anxiety, is a type of distress that is related to worries about the effects of climate change. It can be called anxiety because of uncertainty about the future, alerting to the dangers of a changing climate. Extreme hot or cold weather conditions, hurricanes, cyclones, flooding, and wildfires can also induce stress among people and lead to psychological disorders.


How Can a Toxic Environment Cause Anxiety?

A toxic work environment often leads to increased stress and anxiety, as well as decreased work productivity, and induces low morale among people. Toxic work environments are known to cause a constant fight or flight response in which the brain produces large amounts of cortisol (stress hormone), testosterone, and norepinephrine. This fight or flight response leads to high-stress levels, which can affect one’s mental and physical health.


Why Does the Weather Affect People’s Mood?

Extremely hot or cold temperatures can increase stress levels. Researchers suggest that  people tend to get more irritable and aggressive, especially during hotter months. Several research conducted revealed evidence of increased agitation and anxiety due to higher temperatures.


What Are the Infectious Diseases Caused by Climate Change?

As the climate changes, the risk for infectious diseases also increases, such as anaplasmosis, anthrax, antibiotic-resistant infections, cryptosporidiosis, dengue, ehrlichiosis, fungal diseases like valley fever and histoplasmosis, giardiasis, hantavirus, harmful algal bloom-associated illness, Lyme disease, plague, rabies, spotted fever rickettsiosis, salmonellosis, vibriosis, west nile virus disease, etc.


How Climate Change Can Affect Air-Borne Diseases?

Climate change affects air quality through several pathways, such as through the production and allergenicity of allergens and increasing regional concentrations of fine particles, ozone, and dust. Conditions like droughts and floods and the excessive use of air conditioning (AC) globally are directly resulting in increased person-to-person transmission of airborne infections like tuberculosis, influenza, and measles.


How Can Climate Change Affect Mosquitoes?

In conditions where the water temperature rises, the larvae take a shorter time to mature. Subsequently, there is a greater capacity to generate more offspring during transmission. In warmer climates, adult female mosquitoes are able to digest blood faster and feed more frequently, hence increasing the transmission intensity.


What Are the Major Vector-Borne Diseases?

A disease vector can be any living organism that is capable of transmitting an infectious disease to humans. A vector picks up the disease from any infected host or the environment and then transfers it to a new host through a bite while feeding or by mechanical transmissions, like defecating on the skin or from particles outside the body. Malaria, dengue, lymphatic filariasis, and leishmaniasis are the four major vector-borne diseases.


Can Global Warming Increase Mosquitoes?

Yes, warmer temperatures can increase the geographic spread of vectors such as mosquitoes and ticks. Mosquitoes can survive and breed even in warmer conditions. It has been reported that rising global temperatures are causing an expansion in the areas in which mosquitoes tend to thrive.


Are Vector-Borne Diseases a Growing Problem?

According to data, vector-borne diseases account for more than seventeen percent of all infectious diseases, causing more than 700000 deaths a year. Vector Borne diseases can be caused by parasites, bacteria, or viruses.


Can the Ecosystem Collapse Without Mosquitoes?

Without mosquitoes, thousands of plant species will lose a group of pollinators. If the mosquitoes go extinct, it is true that the entire ecosystem will be affected, but it will not collapse because mosquitoes are not a keystone species in any habitat.


Do Mosquitoes Have Any Positive Role in the Environment?

It is one of the overlooked facts that mosquitos’ primary food source is flower nectar and not blood. Like bees or butterflies, mosquitoes also transfer pollen from flower to flower while feeding on nectar, which fertilizes plants, and allows them to form seeds and reproduce.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
13 Oct 2022  -  6 min read




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