Weather and Health


The Independent runs a feature today about the correlation between weather and health. I don’t think it comes as a surprise as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) has long been recognised as a condition.

The article though draws on physical health conditions as well – which again, doesn’t come as a surprise. When it is cold, people who might be more frail or vulnerable will be more prone to sickness.

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The interesting aspect highlighted by the Independent is how the Met Office (the weather agency) have been commissioned to provide direct services to alert some of the most vulnerable to changes in weather conditions themselves and the interplay between the Met Office and the PCTs (Primary Care Trusts).  The Met Office will identify weather conditions that would increase levels of risk, either because of extremes in heat or cold, or for people who might be suffering from SAD, when there are prolonged periods of gloominess forecast.

It’s a service that has been trialled and rolled out in some areas of the country and might seem obvious but there are other aspects of weather that might relate to health such as pollution levels and poor air quality – which might not be so immediately obvious and of which some foresight might be useful.

It seems like an obvious link to make but as Wayne Elliott, the Head of Health Forecasting at the Met Office says

“My personal view is that the two big areas of importance in climate change are the economic impact and the health impact. Everything else is a side issue.”

My own opinion? That in some ways it’s obvious that there would be a link and connection regarding all kinds of physical and mental health conditions related to weather and it may well be a reason for propensities to different conditions in different parts of the world. Some of the most obvious differences are related to extremes in temperatures and our ability (or not) to manage them but if changes are taking place to climate, it is another factor to consider.

It’s interesting to see that the weather forecasting agency is working so closely with the Department of Health and itself running a direct ‘alert’ system to those who might suffer most from changes in weather conditions but also that in changes may need to take place in public health policies and focusses if weather and climate change is to lead to differing needs within the health service.

4 thoughts on “Weather and Health

  1. It is nice that they are going to alert people that the weather my adversely affect their health, but what are they going to do to actually improve the situation?

    There are no mini gritters that clear the paths for wheelchairs, well not that I have seen anyway, so the mumborg couldn’t go out and play at all.

    For the those that suffer from SAD, will there be lightboxes provided?

    I was writing a blog post recently and came across the MET article and saw the COPD link.
    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/2010/pr20100108.html

    Just clicked on it again and saw about the opt in service, the mum has that too, so will try and get on that scheme and report back, as it seems as though our PCT is one that is using it.

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/health/public/healthy-outlook.html

  2. Claire, thanks for those links. I completely agree about the lack of access in the icy weather – it’s been very noticeable in our service area in the last couple of weeks. I think there are trials running for lightboxes.
    It’d be interesting to hear if the scheme is helpful!
    And in some ways, they are just asking for it, DeeDee 🙂

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