Issue 22
Monday, 05 December 2016
Charles Darwin University
E-news
Dr Kerstin Zander and Dr Simon Moss recommend psychological and physical impacts should be considered when developing heat stress relief
Dr Kerstin Zander and Dr Simon Moss recommend psychological and physical impacts should be considered when developing heat stress relief

Hot thoughts creating stress

By Leanne Miles

Just thinking about heat could be impacting our health and well-being, with researchers recommending that both psychological and physical impacts should be considered when developing heat stress relief and climate change adaptation plans.

Charles Darwin University researchers surveyed 2000 people nation-wide on their self-reported levels of heat stress, finding that almost half perceived themselves as sometimes or often very stressed by heat over the period of one year.

Lead researcher Dr Kerstin Zander from CDU’s Northern Institute said that current heat stress indices were based largely on monitoring the environment and physical limitations to people coping with heat.

“While most research on heat stress has explored how exposure to heat affects us physically, stress from heat can be manifest long before clinical symptoms are evident, with profound effects on behaviour,” Dr Zander said.

Co-author and senior lecturer in Psychology, Dr Simon Moss said that just the thought of heat and climate change was enough to make people feel stressed by heat.

“People generally worried about climate change, who had been influenced by recent heat waves and who thought there was a relationship between climate change and health were more likely to have been heat-stressed,” he said.

“Hotter weather also made people think more about climate change and how it might affect them in the future.”

Dr Zander said that as average annual temperatures increased, and heat stress was expected to affect more people, it was vital to include the perception of temperature and heat stress alongside measures that assessed heat exposure and heat strain.

“Our results suggest that psychological perceptions of heat need to be considered when predicting how people will be affected by heat under climate change when developing heat relief and climate change adaptation plans, at work, at home or in public spaces,” she said.

The actual temperature variation in May and October, when the survey was undertaken, did not influence the responses. Regional differences also were observed with people in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales more likely to report feeling heat-stressed.

“This is most likely due to the variation from cooler to hotter weather in the space of a couple of days for people from the southern states, while people living in tropical areas including the Northern Territory are more likely to be adapted due to consistent warmer weather.”

The collaborative research paper, titled “Drivers of self-reported heat stress in the Australian labour force”, was published recently in “Environmental Research” by Dr Zander, Dr Moss and Professor of Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods Stephen Garnett. To read further visit W: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935116306193