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.