Here’s how the heat can affect your mental health

Jul 19, 2023, 11:00 AM | Updated: 3:02 pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake City broke another high-temperature record as July's heat wave continue...

A hiker finishes her hike early to beat high temperatures, Monday, July 10, 2023 in Phoenix. National Weather Service says Phoenix has had 10 consecutive days of 110 degrees or above. (Matt York/AP Photo)

(Matt York/AP Photo)

SALT LAKE CITY  — You’ve heard the term hangry before. It’s included in Webster’s Dictionary now and means irritable or angry from being hungry. Perhaps the dictionary should add a second definition — irritable or angry from being hot. TL;DR — heat can affect your mental health. 

“Heat, particularly excessive heat, can have many mental health impacts,” said Tammer Attallah, executive clinical director of the Behavioral Health Clinical Program at Intermountain Health. “The research bears that out. Everything from increased irritability, increased symptoms of depression, even some increase in suicidal ideation.”

Mental health professionals also see an increase in aggression, incidences of domestic violence and increases in alcohol use during the hottest months of the year.

“There was a study that looked at 2,000 people who went to the emergency room for behavioral health issues,” Attallah explained, “and there was an 8% increase in emergency room visits for behavioral health [when it’s hot].”

Heat impacts more than we know

Excessive heat impacts our memory, attention and reaction time.

“We know excessive heat without appropriate cooling affects people’s sleep,” said Attallah. “When sleep is affected, it increases problems with mental wellness.”

The research indicates that people who have fewer resources are more affected by the heat than those with more ample incomes because staying cool sometimes costs money.

Stay healthy when you exercise or play outdoors

“This creates extra vulnerability for those who don’t have the resources, for those who can’t find a place to stay cool or are experiencing housing insecurity,” Attallah said.

For people who have preexisting mental health issues, heat can really exacerbate those issues.

“We even know that for people who are taking medications for mental health, heat creates sensitivity for them.”

None of us is immune. Attallah explained there are studies that show both children and adults, male and female, are affected by heat. The effect is across the spectrum.

What can be done?

When it comes to the effect heat has on our mental health and stability, the biggest thing is for people to be aware.

“Just being aware that heat has an impact on all of us, just being patient with each other,” said Attallah. “Let’s keep that in mind as we interact with each other so that we can be more supportive.”

So, maybe if your spouse or coworker seems angry, he/she might just be overheated. Keep that in mind as we slog through the dog days of summer.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Mental Health

Salt Lake Deputy Police Chief Josh Scharman conducts the grand opening of the Community Connections...

Eric Cabrera

Social workers with Salt Lake Police Department are responding to more callers than ever

The Community Connection Center social workers who work with the Salt Lake Police Department are getting an increase in mental health-related calls, as a result they have grown their team to able to respond to more.

16 hours ago

the us house of representatives shown at the capitol, the house passed a bill about sodium nitrite...

Allessandra Harris Gurr

House passes bill to ban a compound used in suicides

Legislation backed by Rep. Celeste Maloy would ban the consumer sale of sodium nitrite, a product becoming increasingly common in suicides.

22 hours ago

A photo taken of Matthew Perry in 2022....

Clayre Scott

Criminal investigation opened in relation to Matthew Perry’s death

A criminal investigation has been opened in relation to Matthew Perry's death due to high levels of ketamine found in his blood.

2 days ago

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, former first lady Rosalynn Carter, sit together du...

Curt Gresseth

Healthy marriages good for Utah taxpayers, says governor’s adviser

An adviser to Utah Gov. Spencer Cox says state government is invested in and promotes the importance of strong, healthy marriages and families.

2 days ago

People present their pets during an animal fashion show....

Mariah Maynes

Here are the health benefits of having pets

According to the USU Extension, interacting with and caring for pets can have positive impacts on your health.

10 days ago


Michelle Lee

Boost your immune system with good nutrition

Let’s Get Moving Host Maria Shilaos spoke with Functional Medicine Nutritionist Karin Reiter to learn how nutrition affects our immune system.

11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

Here’s how the heat can affect your mental health