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How Climate Change Will Affect Your Health

Think climate change only affects the planet? Unfortunately, climate change is as bad for us as it is for the planet.

When we talk about climate change, we often talk about the impact that changing conditions will have on our physical environment. Heat waves, natural disasters, melting ice caps, and rising sea levels are just a few examples of the effects of climate change.

But climate change isn't just bad for the planet. It's also bad for human health. Though it's hard to pinpoint exact outcomes, research has already shown that climate change has the potential to seriously impact human health. The World Health Organization estimates that between 2030 and 2050, global warming will cause approximately 250,000 extra deaths per year.

Though how you're affected will depend on several factors, including where you live, the direct and indirect effects of climate change are pretty scary.

1. It's bad for your heart.

With high temperatures, pollutants such as ozone, a key component of smog, start to accumulate in the air we breathe on a day-to-day basis. These occurrences usually correspond to increased hospital admissions for cardiac issues. Other studies have found that warm weather can have an impact on heart health.

2. It's bad for your lungs.

Respiratory illnesses, including allergies and asthma, are already on the rise in the United States. For example, between 2001 and 2011, the CDC reported that the number of Americans who have asthma increased by 28 percent. Experts believe that rising temperatures may be a factor. With both asthma and allergies, environmental factors play a key role. A longer pollen season, for instance, can exacerbate allergy sufferers' symptoms.

3. Natural disasters will become more common.

Around the world, weather-related natural disasters have tripled since the 1960s. Each year, more than 60,000 deaths are reported in connection to natural disasters around the world. Most of these deaths occur in developing countries, but developed countries are also affected. Floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, heat waves, wildfires, landslides, tornadoes, and droughts can all have wide-ranging health effects.

4. It makes it easier for infectious diseases to spread.

Diseases like malaria and dengue fever, which are both transmitted through mosquitoes, may become more prevalent with climate change. Malaria already kills nearly 600,000 people each year, but with rising temperatures, mosquitoes may thrive in an expanded region.

5. Mental health will also suffer.

Most of the research to date has focused on the physical health effects of global warming. But climate change is also expected to have a profound impact on mental health. Research has shown that cases of conditions such as PTSD rise after severe natural disasters.

But as the American Psychological Association reports, natural disasters won't be the only source of adverse mental health effects. Food insecurity, displacement, mass migration, and physical illnesses can contribute to fear, anxiety, strained social relationships, aggression, loss of autonomy, and depression, among other negative emotions.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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