Energy & Environment

Rising temperatures tied to reduced well-being: analysis

The river Rhine is pictured with low water in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. The low water levels are threatening Germany’s industry as more and more ships are unable to traverse the key waterway. Severe drought will worsen in Europe in August as a hot and dry summer persists. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

A Gallup analysis found that increasing temperatures appeared to be linked to reduced quality of life, which could indicate people will have lower evaluations of their lives in the future as temperatures continue to rise. 

The analysis, released Wednesday, was based on data that Gallup collected over a period of 13 years for its annual World Poll. The researchers used geospatial information on 1.75 million respondents from 160 countries who rated their lives during that time period. 

Gallup also examined 30 years of daily high-resolution temperature data from NASA, using it to map local temperatures in the 30 days before each survey interaction. The polling and research firm was trying to investigate how high-temperature days — which it defines as days considered outliers to normal seasonal temperatures — impact people’s views of their lives. 

The researchers found that a person’s life evaluation dropped by 0.56 percent every time they experienced a high-temperature day. 

The rating system for a person reporting their quality of life was based on the 10-point Cantril Self-Anchoring Scale. The scale asks subjects to imagine a ladder with steps numbered zero up through 10 and share what step they would consider themselves on. 

The analysis found that people experienced three times more high-temperature days in 2020 than in 2008, and respondents’ ratings of their lives dropped by 6.5 percent in that time, with controls for location and other factors that influence how people view their lives. 

Gallup’s Bénédicte Clouet and Nicole Willcoxon, who wrote a summary of the analysis’s findings, said that the 6.5 percent drop is a “meaningful decrease,” since life evaluation has been a relatively stable measure for as long as Gallup has tracked it. 

“As the number of above-normal temperature days continues to grow, the analysis suggests that life ratings will continue to drop, with considerable declines in life evaluations in countries with more frequent high-temperature days,” they said. 

The researchers predict that people will experience 3.1 high-temperature days on average in 2030, compared to 1.7 days in 2021. Life evaluations could accordingly decrease by 17 percent overall by the start of the next decade. The prediction is based on observable heat trends from the past 14 years. 

The analysis also found that certain groups’ wellbeing is more affected by rising temperatures than others. Individuals who are 65 years old and older saw a 1.11 percent decrease in their life evaluations during the period reviewed, compared to a 0.48 percent drop for people younger than 65. 

Earlier research has found that older people are more likely to be vulnerable to the heat and become sick or die from it, according to the Gallup summary. 

The life evaluation for those who only received a primary education dropped by 0.78 percent, while the evaluation for those who received a secondary education dropped by 0.47 percent. The evaluation for those who received a tertiary education, through colleges and trade schools, dropped 0.38 percent. 

The analysis also discovered a more significant decline among the 110 middle- and low-income countries where Gallup conducts polling face-to-face, with a 0.74 percent decline. The most significant decrease occurred in Turkey with a 1.78 percent drop, followed by Mexico with a 1.24 percent drop and China with a 1.14 percent drop. 

Gallup added that decreases in life evaluations could foreshadow increased global crises like food insecurity, conflict and declines in mental health as climate effects mount.

The researchers also noted that the relationships between rising temperatures and lowered well-being do not imply causality, and future research should explore human adaptation and recovery from rising temperatures.

Tags Climate change Gallup high-temperature day quality of life rising temperatures wellbeing

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