Researchers Uncover Surprising Health Risk Associated With Earth’s Rising Temperatures

By: Lauren | Last updated: Nov 02, 2023

Rising temperatures and heat waves around the world have certainly proven to be dangerous for a number of reasons.

But recent research found a surprising health risk of these new high temperatures that many others seem to have overlooked.

Findings from Columbia University’s Study

A study conducted by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health found that with rising temperatures, alcohol and drug-related hospitalizations are on the rise.

Woman experiencing heat stroke is comforted by two others

Source: iStock

In this first study to assess how climate change has affected alcohol and substance abuse problems, the team found that the two are undoubtedly correlated.


High Temperatures Directly Correlated With More Hospital Visits

One co-author of the study, Robbie M. Parks, Ph.D., told the media, “We saw that during periods of higher temperatures, there was a corresponding increase in hospital visits related to alcohol and substance use, which also brings attention to some less obvious potential consequences of climate change.”

Ambulance sits at Emergency bay at Lincoln Medical Center

Source: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

After noting the corresponding increase, the next thing the research team wanted to understand is why this consequence is occurring.

Factors Contributing to This New Data

There are a wide variety of factors that seem to be leading to increased hospital visits due to drugs and alcohol as the world gets warmer.

Friends smiling and drinking beer and cocktails in their bathing suits

Source: Freepik

The first is that people are more likely to drink alcohol when it’s warm or hot outside. From fun outings with friends to a cold beer on the back porch, there’s no doubt that alcohol and sunny weather typically go together.

Alcohol Producers Take Advantage of This Reality

For years, alcohol companies, especially those that sell beer, have capitalized on the idea that a day in the sun isn’t complete without a drink in hand.

Corona, Modelo, and other cases of beer in a grocery store

Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

And, of course, with more and more sunny hot days each coming year, these companies are likely going to continue promoting their product with the sun shining until they are completely synonymous.

Why Are There More Alcohol-Related Hospitalizations During Warm Weather?

But realistically, it’s not all the beer companies’ fault—the real culprit is dehydration. Many people don’t realize just how dehydrating alcohol is.

Sign in Phoenix, Arizona sign that says “Today’s High: 115”

Source: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Coupled with extremely or even moderately hot weather, this problem is directly leading to so many people needing medical attention after a day of drinking in the sun.


Drug-Related Hospitalizations Also on the Rise

According to the data collected in the most recent study, drug-related hospitalizations have also increased with the heat. However, the increase only correlated up to 65.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein holds a chart of drug overdoses

Source: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Sadly, even without the increase in temperature, drug overdoses have already increased significantly in the last two decades. In fact, they have climbed by 781% since 1999.


Painting an Incomplete Picture

Researchers want to make it clear that the data they collected regarding alcohol and drug-related hospitalization and their correlation with increasing temperatures may not be complete.

Men hold wooden coffin topped with red roses

Source: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

And that is simply because there could have been an increase in drug and alcohol-related deaths that did not check into a hospital but instead went straight to the morgue.


Increased Heat Can Cause a Wide Variety of Health Problems

It’s crucial to understand that, in general, heat waves and rising temperatures can seriously damage the body.

Man coughing into his hand

Source: Freepik

From respiratory diseases to heat stroke, bodies will need to work harder when extremely warm or dehydrated to stay healthy. So even if a person is drinking the same amount they usually do, their body could respond in a completely different way in high heat than they are used to.


Searching for Answers to the Problem

While many people are hard at work attempting to figure out how to stop climate change and get the Earth back to its normal temperature, the truth is that the planet is likely to see several more hot years before that happens.

Thermometer reaches 40 degrees Celsius in a garden

Source: James D. Morgan/Getty Images

So according to this new research, one of the best things people can do is focus on their hydration. Of course, one of the best ways to stay hydrated is to skip the beer and go for water instead.


Researchers Want Officials to Raise Awareness

The authors of this important study are hoping that health officials will raise awareness based on the information they’ve collected and let the world know of this increase in substance-based hospitalizations.

Hand holding a white and red megaphone

Source: Freepik

If people know the dangers of drinking or taking drugs in heat that they’re body is not accustomed to, hopefully, fewer people will need to be hospitalized.


Telling Everyone to Be Safe Out There

Senior author Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou explained, “Public health interventions that broadly target alcohol and substance disorders in warmer weather – for example, targeted messaging on the risks of their consumption during warmer weather – should be a public health priority.”

Backs of friends standing in a line with their arms around each other

Source: Freepik

Whether or not doctors, alcohol companies, and local officials will heed her advice is yet to be seen. For now, it’s important to spread this information by word of mouth to keep loved ones and neighbors safe.