Human health – litmus paper for the climate change?

arctic greenland

Ilulissat, Greenland (Unsplash, 2019)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Irmina Morawska, a 5th year medical student of Medical University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Climate Change undoubtedly impacts our health and well-being. The influences of weather and climate on human health are significant and varied. Beginning with allergies and asthma, through cancers with its wealth of malnutrition and ending up on psychiatry problems and neurological disorders. As the Earth warms, sea level rises, floods and droughts become more frequent and intense. These signals are the Earth’s scream for help!

Let’s start with differentiating ways of how climate change affects.

Firstly, the severity and frequency of health problems that are already affected by climate factors is enormously increasing. Areas already experiencing health-threatening weather conditions (severe heat, hurricanes) are likely to batter worsening impacts (increased storm intensity, higher temperatures). It also means that some locations will experience new climate-related health threats. Have a look at asthma. Allergy symptoms have been ubiquitous lately. Climate change is one of the culprits here. More CO2 in the air and higher temperatures result in longer staying of allergens in the air, which are getting more annoying than they used to. They also enforce additional work on the immune system and cause lower lung capacity.

Secondly, creating unprecedented health threats in places where they have not previously occurred. Not only does the climate change make many existing diseases and conditions worse, but also it may help introduce new pathogens into new regions or communities. For instance, nowadays, more frequent cases of malaria, dengue, yellow fever or typhoid are likely to occur in non-typical regions. On the other hand, areas that currently experience those health threats may see a shift in the timing of the seasons that pose the greatest risk to human health. Moreover, it may also result in compounding our health care infrastructure.

When it comes to malnutrition, which is generally associated, above all, with poor Third World inhabitants, now is increasingly affecting the societies of developed countries. Food loses its quality and its poor condition may contribute to developmental deficits and many variants of cancers, which are getting more and more difficult to diagnose and treat.

The effects of climate change on mental health are integral parts of the overall climate-related human health impacts. Mental health consequences of climate change range from minimal distress symptoms to clinical disorders, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and suicidality. Other consequences include effects on the everyday life and experiences of individuals and communities. The interactive and cumulative nature of climate change effects on physical and mental health are crucial factors in understanding the overall consequences of climate change on human health.

There is no denying – the future doesn’t look rosy. The most vulnerable people – children, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions – are at increased risk for health effects from climate change. We should stop for a while, broaden horizons, look at the problem from stricter side and implement advanced advocacy steps. New ideas will yield benefits for our health, environment, economy and society at the same time… Our health is at stake!

About the author

Irmina Morawska is a 5th year medical student of Medical University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland. Since 3 years active member of IFMSA-Poland – a part of International Federation of Medical Students Associations, currently holds the position of National Officer on Medical Education (NOME). Advocacy and project management supporter. Combining passion for travelling with love for medicine encouraged her to participate in professional exchange programmes in Slovakia and Oman, but this year new adventure in Portugal has already knocked her door with its wealth of unknown. Devoted soft skills trainer with motivation, creativity and opened state of mind.

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