Investigating the Effects of the Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health

Author: Preston Wang
Mentor: Dr. Hong Pan, Ph.D
Tesoro High School


As climate change continues to become more severe, the necessity to manage its effects has become extremely prevalent. The United Nations previously gave annual reports on the status of climate change, however, as of 2023, it has ceased to do so and published a final report, as minimal improvements were being made. While there is an extensive understanding of the effects climate change has on environments and the overall health of individuals, its effects on mental health are often overlooked.

Three major aspects of climate change are rising temperatures, increasing incidents of extreme weather, and air pollution, which all directly affect mental and physical health. The process called a circadian rhythm is a key factor that influences mental health by controlling the hormone production and release cycles, such as serotonin and melatonin, sleep cycle, temperature regulation cycle, and detoxification cycle. This paper aims to bridge a gap in understanding between climate change and mental health by focusing on 3 of the most potent effects of climate change and its influence on circadian rhythms and mental health.


Recently, a strong connection between climate change’s impacts and the human population’s overall mental health has become a significant topic of scientific inquiry and medical research. The rates of disasters and their severity have escalated greatly and brought devastating effects onto many populations, such as a lack of water and food, impacting millions of people (United Nations, 2023). In fact, a statistic gathered by the Common Wealth Fund strongly supports this, stating that nearly 45% of Americans feel that their worries about climate change have negatively impacted their life (Common Wealth Fund, 2023). The United Nations has published a final report on these environmental changes along with a set of actions to slow its process. To minimize these impacts, it is important to gain a solid understanding of the factors that influence individuals and their mental health.

Figure 1:

This figure displays the connection between climate change and the different courses it can take to develop mental disorders. Climate change creates several disasters, such as rising temperatures, extreme weather instances, such as floods and hurricanes, and air pollution. Exposure to these events has the ability to create a negative state of mind, such as stress and anxiety, which can directly lead to the development of mental disorders, such as depression, or cause insufficient and inadequate sleep. Poor sleep, which can arise from insomnia, nightmares, and breathing disorders, can contribute to poor mental health.

An important component of the brain to be considered is the circadian rhythm, the internal clock that controls many of the body’s molecular, cellular, and behavioral cycles including sleep-wake cycles, body temperatures, digestive systems, and hormone production and releases. Circadian rhythms are based on a 24-hour feedback loop of organisms’ internal body processes, where every cycle and organ has its own biological rhythm. Circadian rhythms have a master control in the brain, and its molecules work to manage bodily processes by interacting with cells throughout the body, such as organs and tissues. This process is imperative for efficient functions in all living organisms. Even diseases or disorders have their circadian rhythms, which is why many medicine distributions are created based on circadian rhythm cycles to improve their effectiveness. A great deal of research has been conducted to discover the best timing to distribute medications to the body to maximize the effectiveness of treating conditions, such as asthma. For example, Dr. Berry reported in the Fundamentals of Sleep Medicine that taking inhaled steroids anywhere from 3-4 PM increases the effectiveness of treating asthma (Herman 2014).

In addition, circadian rhythms are highly impacted by external cues. For example, bright lights disrupt circadian rhythms, causing a delay in the release of the sleep hormone, melatonin, which leads to sleep disturbances. The disruptions in circadian rhythms are known to impact individuals’ mental health in many ways. For instance, the sleep cycle is one of the major areas of impact as sleep helps to filter the brain to reset and restore it to an optimal condition. It also cools off the brain through the thermoregulation cycle and aids in the release and production of hormones through circadian rhythms.

Figure 2: Healthy circadian rhythms allow for proper bodily function, including alertness, improved cognitive ability, adequate sleep, and healthy body functions. However, when circadian rhythms are disrupted, several issues arise, including poor sleep and bodily function. These effects lead to poor mental health. Development and worsening of mental and physical illnesses and disorders may result, such as depression, dementia, and cognitive disorders.

As noted in Figure 2, it is important to consider the effects of a disrupted circadian rhythm on bodily functions and the maintenance of positive mental health. This paper aims to elaborate on three of the most influential effects of climate change, increasing temperatures, extreme weather, and air pollution, and their impact on mental health through circadian rhythms.

Increased Temperature Effects

Figure 3: As temperatures increase, the regulation of bodily functions declines due to disruptions in circadian rhythms. The body requires a cooler temperature for melatonin to have a controlled release. Therefore, as temperatures increase and sleep quality and length diminish, its ability to manage melatonin production decreases due to disruptions of circadian rhythms. As a result, the body struggles to maintain the production of hormones, such as serotonin, and regulate mood which leads to increasing instances of negative moods and the development of illnesses and disorders.

Since 1895, the Earth’s climate has risen by 1.3-1.9 degrees Celsius, and most of this change has occurred after 1970 (Rifkin 2018). While this change may seem minimal at first, the body is meant to function in a very specific temperature range of 36.1 to 37.2 degrees Celsius (MedlinePlus 2023). Circadian rhythms utilize temperature and light as cues to control the production of hormones that manage the sleep-wake cycle. The body naturally prefers colder temperatures to produce melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. Light also plays a critical role as it provides a direct signal to the circadian rhythm’s central control in the brain. These cues are sent back to molecular and cellular levels to inform the time of the biological clock at various body controls. Many studies are conducted to determine the effect of sun exposure length and time of the day on the healthy production of hormones. Exposure to morning sunlight is key to regulating a healthy circadian rhythm cycle (Münch). When individuals are exposed to morning sunlight and cooler sleeping temperatures are established, a healthy function of circadian rhythms can be obtained, where the body’s internal clock is in sync with the day-night cycle.

Figure 4: As the body prepares to sleep, it syncs to the environment. In a healthy circadian rhythm, the melatonin production and release cycle begins, and body temperature and blood pressure drop. However, in the disrupted circadian rhythm, as the body syncs to the environment, it alerts a high ambient temperature and starts to conduct heat transfer to the skin. As a result, melatonin production and release cycle is delayed or shortened and the body is not able to lower the body temperature and blood pressure. Throughout the sleep cycle, healthy circadian rhythms produce and release melatonin for the body to sleep continuously. However, in the disrupted circadian rhythms, the melatonin production and release cycle is disrupted, and the body may produce less throughout the sleep cycle, contributing to poor sleep quality and quantity.

Climate change has been affecting the global rise of temperatures. As temperatures increase, the temperatures at night also increase, which disrupts the circadian rhythm. Body temperature is regulated to stay within a range of 1 degree Celsius (Medline Plus 2023). It is also directly correlated with the increase in bodily activities or changing environments. Sleep is strongly affected by climate change because it is a highly thermoregulated process (Rifkin 2018). As noted in Figure 4, when the body prepares for sleep, core body temperature is lowered by sending heat to the external parts of the body. This is highly reflective of the tendency of individuals to sleep longer during the winter than in the summer because it is able to reach a cool temperature much faster. The increase in the body temperature causes the body core to send the heat away from the core to the skin. Sweat is the most common method as a way for the body to cool down. This increase in the circulation of blood causes discomfort in the body which disrupts circadian rhythms.

On a positive note, a recent study from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Southern California found that individuals can improve sleep quality and length by taking a hot shower or bath for 10 minutes 1 to 2 hours before bedtime (Haghayegh 2019). This occurs by forcing the body to increase blood circulation before sleeping to remove core body heat. Thus, this method can also be applied during hot days, as core body heat is brought down before sleeping to initiate the cooling process of the circadian rhythm. Also, there is other research being conducted to lower the body temperatures necessary for better sleep. For example, a study conducted by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin revealed that the strategic cooling of core body components with a novel pillow and mattress system allowed individuals to fall asleep nearly 58% faster than nights without temperature aid (Haghayegh 2022). Using an indoor climate control system is also effective in lowering body temperatures to facilitate better sleep. As energy efficiency and affordability become a pressing concern for this method, a significant reliance on technological developments may be needed in the future. The MIT Technology Review reported in 2023 that adding desiccants, materials that absorb moisture, to existing air conditioning designs enhances energy efficiency. MIT is also developing a hybrid air conditioning system called Transaera that can cut down approximately 35% of energy usage. They further reported that the traditional air cooler system which uses evaporation cooling methods has been evolving. Air cooler systems can generally cut down approximately 80% of energy usage and cost less than traditional air conditioning systems. Evaporation cooling methods convert the humidity to cool air; however, they previously had limited usage in dry environments. A start-up called Blue Frontier is adding liquid desiccants with a high salt solution that can pull more humidity from the atmosphere to the traditional air cooler systems. This methodology can expand to be used in other environments that traditional air cooler systems couldn’t before. Blue Frontier is estimating an energy reduction of 50-80% compared to traditional air conditioning methods (Crownhart 2023).

Moreover, if the body cannot regulate the body temperature, which is necessary for the cooling down process of the circadian rhythms, the pineal gland in the brain releases less melatonin (Ulrich 2008). According to Nayana Ambardekar, MD, body temperatures tend to decrease by approximately 1-2 degrees during sleep (WebMD 2021). Therefore, the increased ambient temperatures combined with the need for decreased temperatures during sleep greatly constitute poor sleep quality and length, as illustrated in the study from Figure 5. The higher the temperature, the body needs to play catchup to reduce the body temperatures necessary for sleep and release of melatonin.

Figure 5: A study involving a sample of 765,000 individuals shows that as the nighttime temperatures increase, the number of monthly nights with insufficient sleep increases. The solid line represents the line of best fit which more easily displays the overall trend. The X-axis displays the decrease or increase in temperatures, and the Y-axis displays the occurrences of insufficient sleep.

Figure 5 is a representation of the effect increasing temperatures have on sleep quality and length. Proper sleep constitutes both adequate length and quality, and neither of these can occur when the environmental standards of circadian rhythms are not met.

Disruptions in circadian rhythms cause shortened and poorer quality sleep. A connection between poor sleep and poor mental health can be established when considering the effect sleep deprivation has on the brain. Because sleep allows individuals to absorb information and reset to an optimal condition, when sleep standards are not met, individuals can experience increased negative responses to criticism and minor inconveniences. It can also lead to the development of anxiety and depression. It has a vicious circle of developing and worsening mental disorders as sleep deprivation can lead to mental disorders and also a decline in one’s conditions for mental disorders (Columbia Department of Psychology, 2022). Sleep controls the production of hormones, including happy hormones, such as serotonin which are responsible for maintaining a positive mood. Also, impaired sleep inhibits one’s ability to regulate mood and emotions. When hormone production and mood regulation are compromised, the risk of developing these conditions increases. Thus, compromised sleep leads to an increased risk of developing and worsening mental illness.

Extreme Weather

Figure 6: Extreme weather events can lead to the development of mental illnesses through several different processes, such as food insecurity and water-vector illnesses (can be both direct or indirect), direct experience (i.e. trauma, loss of lives), and indirect experience (i.e. worries, anxiety). Physical distress can contribute to an increase in emotional distress and also can directly contribute to disruptions in circadian rhythms. Emotional distress can create increased stress and anxiety in individuals, which leads to disruptions in circadian rhythms, affecting sleep and contributing to the development or worsening of mental disorders.

Extreme weather includes instances of natural disasters, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and droughts. The occurrences of these incidents are rapidly increasing, as there have been 11,778 natural disasters and 2 million deaths from 1970 until 2021 (United Nations). Some of the most common responses to experiencing these events include insomnia, anxiety, and risky coping methods, such as alcoholism, which all may lead to mental disorders (American Psychological Association 2023). Extreme weather events cause emotional and physical distress from direct experience, indirect experience, food insecurity, and water-borne and vector-borne illnesses. Individuals may experience food insecurity and water-borne and vector-borne illnesses indirectly or directly. A direct experience may consist of suffering from a lack of necessities or developing a water-borne or vector-borne illness, whereas an indirect experience may include experiencing worries and anxiety from an event.

Direct experiences from extreme weather events can cause both emotional and physical distress. Physical distress can lead to emotional distress or directly disrupt circadian rhythms. Those who experience the effects of natural disasters firsthand can suffer from physical distress such as physical injuries, which instill pain in the recipients, causing disruptions in the circadian rhythm and inhibiting sleep. A study on the effects of circadian rhythms and pain reveals that they have an inverse relationship, such that as pain increases, the ability to sleep decreases (Bumgarner 2023). Furthermore, those who experience the effects of natural disasters firsthand have higher risks of developing mental disorders. Being exposed to the aftermath of disasters, such as death and injury, carries a heavy toll on one’s mental health, especially when they are also managing the effects on one’s personal life (American Psychiatric Association 2023). For example, one may have to manage their trauma while experiencing displacement. In addition, individuals can experience emotional distress from economic loss or poverty due to extreme weather events. For example, Hurricane Maria in 2017 claimed about $94.4 billion in damages in Puerto Rico. Individuals suffered economic loss and food insecurity as a result of the $780 million loss in agricultural production which represents about 80% of total production. (Mercy Corps 2023). Even if individuals did not experience physical injuries, the financial difficulty alone can contribute to an increase in the risk factor of developing or worsening mental health. Negative emotions such as anger, shame, worry, or hopelessness can also be amplified, leading to disruptions in sleep and circadian rhythm. Therefore, physical injuries directly impact an individual’s mental health through an inverse relationship of pain and sleep, which disrupts circadian rhythms, and these individuals must also manage emotional distress, which adds more risk factors and an increased tendency to develop mental illnesses

Indirect experiences can result in emotional distress as individuals may be worried about future impacts of climate change. They may worry about specific consequences such as displacement, loss of belonging, loss of lives, and trauma, or the overall future of the world and the generations that follow. This occurrence is called climate anxiety and has been steadily increasing as extreme weather events have been rising. Climate anxiety may start with worries and lead to the development of anxiety, depending on an individual’s reaction to certain events and coping methods. Feelings of anger, grief, and hopelessness are some of the common emotions that individuals experience. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication reported an increase in public distress, and that approximately 70% of Americans are worried about global warming. It was also indicated that 9% of Americans feel depressed for at least several days, and 8% of Americans want counseling services (Yale 2023). As noted in Figure 7, these worries and anxiety impact an individual’s mental health and increase the risk of developing mental disorders as they disrupt circadian rhythms and sleep.

Figure 7: In the healthy circadian rhythm, as one prepares for sleep, the mind and body relax for a healthy production and release of melatonin. Body temperature and blood pressure drop as the sleep cycle begins. Throughout the sleep cycle, continued production and release of melatonin contribute to good quality and length of sleep. However, when individuals experience distress, their circadian rhythm may be disrupted. As one prepares for sleep, their mind may race, and negative emotions may get stronger. When the mind experiences these distresses and emotions, the physical body may react in ways such as rapid heartbeat and muscle tension. The melatonin production release cycle may be disrupted. Also, body temperature and blood pressure may not drop accordingly and their sleep cycle may be disrupted. The continued production and release of melatonin throughout the sleep cycle may also be disrupted. As a result, sleep quality may be negatively impacted. Poor sleep may lead to physical diseases or mental disorders such as heart attack, PTSD, and depression. Repeated poor sleep may contribute to worsening conditions of worry, anxiety, and disorder.

Emotional distress transforms lives as a result of displacement, loss of belongings and lives, trauma, and survivor’s guilt. For instance, common causes of displacement are natural disasters, as many individuals are forced away from their homes to escape harm. This has harmful effects on mental health, as 45% of individuals who have experienced displacement have symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety (Schwarz 2017). Moreover, some individuals may develop a condition known as survivor’s guilt, where one feels as though they should have been the one who got injured or passed away in an incident. Individuals who have indirectly experienced traumatic events may also develop this condition. This often can lead to the development of a negative self-view and severe emotional distress (Murray 2021). The level of emotional distress felt and the disruption of circadian rhythms differ from individual to individual because different people perceive these events in different ways. One instance of emotional distress may be enough for some individuals to experience a disruption in circadian rhythms, while for other individuals, a compilation of emotions on top of each other creates such a disruption. As noted in Figure 7, disruptions in circadian rhythms affect the sleep cycle, which may lead to the development of physical disease and mental disorders.

In addition, high levels of stress create a necessity for individuals to develop coping mechanisms. A study from Myriad Genetics revealed that approximately 77% of Americans utilize unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drug and alcohol use (Science Magazine, 2023). The consumption of these chemicals can lead to a psychological reliance on them to function and even a shrinkage of the hippocampus of the brain (Mosel 2023). The hippocampus works to regulate emotional responses, and when it shrinks, its ability to effectively function is compromised. While the extent of these effects will vary based on the level of usage, excessive use of substances can negatively alter sleep quality and length by increasing nighttime awakenings and time taken to fall asleep (Hasler 2011). Therefore, unhealthy coping mechanisms may disrupt the circadian sleep cycle or the hippocampus of the brain depending on the extent of substance usage.

Developing healthy coping methods is vital to positive mental health. The most common coping method is psychotherapy which focuses on developing coping skills by using talk therapy, behavioral therapy, and a combination of behavioral therapy with guided eye movement. These methods focus on controlling negative feelings, such as fear and pessimistic beliefs to help individuals change responses or the way they would feel about the same or similar unfortunate circumstances (Mayo Clinic 2018). A relatively new field of psychology known as positive psychology focuses on the positive traits of an individual’s strength and feelings to build optimism and happiness. The implementation of this new position into current treatment plans or day-to-day mentalities may support the development of an individual’s coping mechanism. Positive psychology is the study of what makes life enjoyable and worth living (Schrader 2008). It is not based on positive thinking, but rather, it encourages individuals to channel their inner strengths to adapt and develop self-compassion to achieve happiness in life. Research done by the University of California, San Francisco indicated that when people are faced with stress such as from a chronic physical illness, positive emotions may still exist among the overwhelming amount of negative emotions. These positive emotions can lead people to adapt to the situation and cope with stress better (Folkman 2000). It is a rapidly growing field of study, also leading to a steady rise in positive psychotherapy. This empower-from-within approach can instill high resilience and also has high accessibility as people can take online questionnaires and perform positive psychology practices to learn and develop themselves.

The emotional and physical distress may lead to the disruption of the circadian rhythms, which contributes to poor sleep, inhibiting the body’s ability to properly manage emotions, hormone production, and mental health. As noted in Figure 7, emotions tend to be more tense at night. The physical body reacts to these negative emotions such as muscle tension and rapid heartbeat. Melatonin production and release cycle and required body temperature and blood pressure drop for sleep may be disrupted. A proper sleep cycle may be disturbed as constant production and release of melatonin may not take place throughout the sleep cycle. As a result, these disruptions in sleep and circadian rhythms may lead to psychological and physical disorders and illnesses such as PTSD, depression, and heart attacks. In addition, according to a study published in Cognition and Emotion, one night of disrupted sleep can lead to stronger negative feelings the following night. This occurs because the mind struggles to regulate its feelings (Boon 2022). Therefore, a disrupted circadian sleep clock one night may lead to more intense negative feelings at night which further inhibits one’s ability to sleep.

Air Pollution Effects

Figure 8: Air pollution causes physical symptoms in the body, such as airway irritations, swelling, and hindering the ability to take adequate amounts of oxygen, or it can directly disrupt the circadian rhythms. These may lead to the development of chronic respiratory illnesses and cognitive disorders. Disruptions in circadian rhythms can result from these conditions through disruptions in sleep cycles. A vicious cycle occurs in the relationship between sleep, circadian rhythms, and the development of chronic respiratory illness and cognitive disorders. These conditions lead to one another and can worsen symptoms of physical and mental health conditions. Poor air quality leads to disrupted sleep, disrupted sleep leads disruptions in circadian rhythms, and it can lead to an increased risk of developing and worsening these conditions.

Large emissions of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere are a core cause of climate change and poor air quality, which causes increased susceptibility to developing chronic respiratory illnesses, such as asthma (D’Amato 2020). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified six air pollutants to set the criteria for ambient air quality based on health and environment (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Studies have been conducted linking air pollution to chronic respiratory illness and cognitive disorders. As noted in Figure 8, they can become chronic and life-threatening and as illnesses progress, more exposure to poor air can result in a worsening of the condition. Chronic respiratory illness and cognitive disorders can also result from the disruption of the circadian rhythm. Not only can individuals develop such illnesses or disorders directly from the inhalation of air pollutants, but also, the inhalation of these pollutants alone can disrupt circadian rhythms.

Respiratory illnesses develop as air pollutants inhibit the ability of the lungs to take in adequate amounts of oxygen. During sleep, the body may wake up in order to restore proper oxygen levels, disrupting the ability to obtain adequate sleep length and quality (Verma 2023). Inadequate and poor sleep has the ability to disrupt circadian rhythms and inhibit the production of serotonin and mood regulation, increasing the risk of developing mental disorders. In addition, the inhalation of air pollutants can cause upper airway irritation and swelling. The common development is asthma which individuals experience restricted breathing. When individuals have restricted breathing, sleep quality, and length may become compromised because of low oxygen intake to the brain, which forces the body to wake up to restore proper oxygen levels. Also, depending on the severity, it may cause individuals to stop breathing temporarily during sleep.

Furthermore, the inhalation of air pollution greatly increases the risk of developing cognitive disorders. Inhalation of air pollution inhibits memory and learning aspects of the brain often resulting in circadian dysfunction (Musiek 2023). Studies conducted on humans and animals indicate such a linkage. A study conducted by the University of California, Irvine indicates a risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease with inhalation of particulate matter in mice (UCI). Because sleep serves a function to regulate toxic by-product buildups, some studies speculated that disruption in sleep can cause the toxins to build up causing brain damage or affecting cognitive functions (Underwood 2013). Furthermore, cognitive disorders can also cause dysfunction in the circadian rhythms, and as the development of these diseases worsens, the body’s ability to utilize circadian rhythms to regulate the production of melatonin and other hormones is disrupted. Such dysfunction can cause inadequate sleep quality and length, leading to the development of mental disorders.

Additionally, chronic respiratory illness and cognitive disorders from air pollution can be caused by specific controls in the circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are regulated at the control center of the brain. While more studies are needed to further support this theory, the inhalation of air pollution may directly affect circadian rhythms in respiratory control and circadian clock protein activity. Circadian rhythm in respiratory control is responsible for controlling sleep patterns and breathing. When respiratory control gets dysfunctional, it can lead to chronic respiratory illness and affect sleep quality and length. Such disturbance in sleep contributes to the increased risk of developing mental disorders. Furthermore, the inhalation of air pollutants can change circadian clock protein activities which may lead to inducing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can reduce antioxidant defense mechanisms which can lead to cognitive illness and other mental disorders (Salim 2014). As noted in Figure 8, inhalation of air pollution has a vicious circle as disruption of sleep and circadian rhythm can occur from chronic respiratory illness and cognitive disorders, but also it can directly affect circadian rhythm controls to contribute to developing or worsening chronic respiratory illnesses and cognitive disorders.

Minimizing the inhalation of air pollution is key to reducing the risk of developing and worsening mental health issues. With the advent of AI technology, its implementation into climate change could be extremely impactful in lowering its effects on mental health. A study by Penn State University found that AI can help identify locations with a high concentration of air pollution and individual traffic (Tutella 2023). This data can be used to inform officials to prioritize certain regions with the greatest impact from air pollution. Additionally, this data can be used to alert individuals when they enter a region with poor air quality, thus reducing the time they spend inhaling toxins. With reduced time spent in air pollution, individuals can greatly minimize its impact on their mental health. In the future, as AI technology gathers more information, it may be able to pinpoint specific facilities that produce high volume of air pollution more effectively and consistently. This will allow greater regulation of air pollution to limit exposure and prevent the development of mental and physicial ailments.


This paper examines the effects climate change has on mental health and aims to clarify how certain events can impact mental health. The increased temperature, extreme weather incidents, and air pollution all contribute to the disruption of circadian rhythms and negatively affect mental health. As temperatures continue to rise, circadian rhythms are disrupted as core body temperatures increase, which leads to discomfort and inhibits the ability to properly undergo the thermoregulation and melatonin release processes, impacting sleep quality and length. The thermoregulation process is an aspect influenced by rising temperatures, as it consists of cooling the brain and aiding in the release of hormones, through circadian rhythms. When temperatures rise, the body struggles to undergo this process effectively, thus affecting mental health through the disruption in the sleep cycle. Climate change also increases occurrences of extreme weather incidents, which can cause emotional and physical distress from direct experience, indirect experience, and insecurities from food and water-borne and vector-borne illnesses. In addition, individuals may adopt unhealthy coping methods. All these aspects contribute to a decline in mental health and an increasing risk of developing mental disorders through the disruption of circadian rhythms and sleep cycles. Air pollution has a vicious cycle of sleep, circadian rhythm, and development of chronic respiratory illness and cognitive disorders. Each condition can lead to one another and can worsen symptoms of physical and mental health conditions. The physical effects such as upper airway irritation and swelling can cause disruption in circadian rhythm by inhibiting circadian sleep cycles. Such disruptions in the sleep cycle can lead to an increased risk of developing or worsening cognitive disorders or chronic respiratory illness. These conditions can also further worsen the disruption in circadian rhythm while having an increased risk of developing mental disorders. Also, the inhalation of air pollution may directly inhibit specific circadian controls such as the circadian detoxification cycle and respiratory control cycle which can lead to the development or worsening of cognitive illness and respiratory illness. Such conditions can lead to disruption of circadian rhythm and sleep creating further risk for developing or worsening the mental disorders. All the effects of climate change explored in this paper, which include increased temperature, extreme weather, and air pollution, have a similar tendency to impact sleep and hormone cycles through disruptions in circadian rhythms. Sufficient sleep quality and length is an aspect that is required to maintain positive mental health and prevent the worsening and development of mental illnesses. Faltering sleep quality affects the body’s ability to manage the production and release of hormones, such as serotonin, and compromises the regulation of emotion, which can lead to the development of a poor mental health. Additionally, this disruption in the sleep cycle inhibits the ability to absorb information and reset the brain to an optimal condition for proper mood regulation.

The understanding of the connection between mental health and climate change has been developed over recent years. By exploring the underlying reasons climate change can affect mental health and circadian rhythms, research in this field can continue to develop, and the ability to provide support for individuals suffering from mental health issues and climate change can be strengthened.


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About the author

Preston Wang

Preston is a junior at Tesoro High School. He has participated and placed in the California Science and Engineering Fair and Orange County Science and Engineering Fair throughout middle school, which fostered his desire to help people through scientific research and discovery. In high school, he began directly helping those in need at Mercy Warehouse, a nonprofit organization that works to provide impoverished families with necessities and he started a community health nonprofit organization, Unified Mind, focused on increasing positive emotions among children through extracurricular activities to support and improve mental health. In his spare time, Preston enjoys playing volleyball at his school and local clubs.

Preston’s overarching goal in life is to aid in preventing depression among the youth by focusing on the significance of building positive productive habits to maintain a positive outlook on life, and fulfill their full potential to reach their happiest self. To ameliorate the mental health crisis among the youth, he strives to create and promote positive outlets and environments for young individuals to ensure their long-term health and happiness with a solid state of well-being so that they can fight any adversity in life.