Mental Health Impacts Of Prolonged Wildfire Smoke Unknown, Researchers Say

August 1, 2021 10:48 am · 25 comments

Wildfire season in California is damaging, dreaded and, unfortunately, inevitable. And the most Californians can really do is brace themselves for the unexpected with tactics encouraged by fire officials and emergency response teams.

But, as wildfires begin to increase in duration and severity, the weeks and months of hazy skies may take a greater mental toll on Californians than their emergency kits or home hardening tactics can prepare them for.

David Eisenman, a professor at University of California Los Angeles’ community health sciences department, studies community resilience and behavioral responses to disaster and trauma. He recently presented his latest findings at a UC Symposium on wildfires last Wednesday, and his field of study was an outlier in a sea of statistics on climate change and landscaping tactics.

“Now there’s a lot of research on the acute traumatic mental health effects on people who have had their lives threatened or their homes destroyed by fire,” Eisenman said at the event. “But what about people whose homes and lives are not actually threatened by the flames? What do we know about the mental health effects of many weeks or even months of wildfire smoke exposure?”

Not enough, he concluded.

Eisenman, along with a team of researchers, looked into 30 year’s worth of preexisting research on smoke and mental health, but both qualitative and quantitative studies did not fully address the long-term effects.

One quantitative study from Indonesia in 2014 looked at the short-term effects of forest fires, and found an acute association to psychological stress and changes in cerebral blood flow.

“They found out that the blood vessels to the brain were changed in how they dilated and constricted in response to the haze, and that those blood vessel changes were correlated with symptoms of anxiety, nervousness, nausea, headaches, and a bunch of other symptoms,” Eisenman said.

Another study from Canada found that smoke directly impacted communities who had to stay indoors, with subjects frequently citing feelings of fear, isolation and anxiety.

There’s three specific challenges to researching wildfire smoke like this, Eisenman said. For starters, the state-wide data on mental health historically derives from hospitals and care facilities, and diagnoses or hospitalization records would not be relevant to the study. It’s also difficult to assemble enough of a data set with only short-term events, as compared to years’ worth of effects for topics like industrial air pollution. And lastly, defining who is exposed and who is not is difficult when smoke covers vast areas (for example, remember that orange day in San Francisco last year?).

“The toxins in wildfire can be just as bad if not worse than industrial air pollution,” Eisenman said. “So there’s good reason to believe that these effects are going to be seen if we have these more of these prolonged wildfires, prolonged smoke.”

Though there’s room for more research, these studies did shed a light on mechanisms during wildfire season that could affect people’s outlook; for example, reduced physical activity, isolation from community, food insecurity and negative reminders. Eisenman also mentioned “solastalgia,” which is grieving the loss of land and climate change crisises.

“Studies should focus on the chronic, persistent or repeated smoke events and should distinguish between the exacerbation of existing mental health states versus the impact on incidence of new symptoms,” the study concludes. “Quality of life should also be studied as an outcome.”

WC Resident August 1, 2021 at 10:54 AM

I’m sure there are mental health downsides resulting from exposure to reports about the mental health downsides of exposure to (fill in the blank here).

Sometimes it’s better to be in an oblivious happy daze. Breath that fresh air folks!

Sam August 1, 2021 at 11:04 AM

Fire is racist. Gavin newsom hasn’t done anything to prevent wildfires, therefore gavin newsom is a racist white supremacist and should be recalled.

Obamavirus August 1, 2021 at 11:14 AM

This guy is exactly what your technocratic dictatorship will look and sound like if the Great Reset is ever fully implemented
First step to fight it is to get rid of Newsom Sep 14

chuckie the troll August 1, 2021 at 11:31 AM

They should study the mental health impacts of prolonged mask mandates first.

And I would love to have an (honest) epidemiologist quantify the number of people who have or will die because their diagnosis (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc…) was delayed by the shutdowns.

I do not expect either to happen.

RANDOM TASK August 1, 2021 at 11:38 AM

wow
that was a bloated testimony of nothing

oh now everyone has mental health issues

lets put them all on medication form china

wow

Aunt Barbara August 1, 2021 at 12:07 PM

but they don’t study the effects of the vaccine on long term health.
Jab now, worry later.

Badge1104 August 1, 2021 at 11:45 AM

The mental health impacts of living in Governor Newsom’s California are not known yet either.

chuckie the troll August 1, 2021 at 1:57 PM

The full range of impacts from Gavin bin Lyin’ on mental health are still being collated. They were bad enough that we moved out of the state. When people ask where we moved from, we say California, or Kleptofornica. And they understand.

Janus August 1, 2021 at 11:45 AM

Can we have a study totally paid by taxes to study how life impacts the Quality of Life?

Then we can branch out to fog, overcast days, then darkness perhaps twilight followed by total eclipse of the 🌞?

Who is with me?🧐

Dawg August 1, 2021 at 11:46 AM

I know two people who lost their homes and one person who lost his life from the wildfires. The two people who lost their homes are women, one in Oregon, and one in California. They both said they are still feeling traumatized, and jaded. The person who lost his life is my nephew. The smoke affected his asthma, which triggered a seizure, he slipped into a coma and died.

anon August 1, 2021 at 1:21 PM

I’m very sorry for your loss, that is tragic. The fires should have never happened.

Jeff (the other one) August 1, 2021 at 2:12 PM

sad news, sorry Dawg.

Martinezmike August 1, 2021 at 2:23 PM

Important too, is to study the effects on wildlife. I heard reports of squirrels getting squirrelier, and rabbits becoming un-hoppy.

Ricardoh August 1, 2021 at 2:33 PM

Which is worse for your mental health? Smoke or democrats, democrats or smoke. I pick democrats.

Dr. Jellyfinger August 2, 2021 at 7:16 AM

There could be a link between smoke inhalation killing brain cells and voting for Democrats.

Exit 12A August 1, 2021 at 4:25 PM

.
Sheezus….. Americans have become so soft and helpless. Such wussies!
.
So lame!!
.
Deal with reality head-on!!

Mongoose August 1, 2021 at 4:27 PM

Wear a mask…Oh Wait I min the Free State of Arizona….we don’t wear Newscums.

Cellophane August 1, 2021 at 5:07 PM

Ya die.

That’s the bottom line.

Breeth in a lot of smoke from wildfires and burned down homes and all that toxic stuff and ya get sick then ya die.

How to stop it?

Manage the forests better.

Ignore the rabid environmentalists who thing it’s more important to protect bait than it is to feed a nation.

earl August 1, 2021 at 8:05 PM

+1

earl August 1, 2021 at 5:08 PM

fire is racist as it impact blacks more than whites, so clearly this is another call for equity…

and if you believe that load of BS, see psychological help

The Fearless Spectator August 1, 2021 at 5:12 PM

These guys are visionaries.

There was an old Bill Cosby routine where his high school shop teacher said, “You know, if you put a bullet in the furnace, it’ll explode”.

These guys remind of that.

Old Timer August 2, 2021 at 8:01 AM

Are you kidding me what next.I will tell you what makes a person Mentally unstable.Hearing all this crap someone keeps thinking up and spending money to make up all this bull____!

Original G August 2, 2021 at 8:05 AM

When study or more likely studies are completed how will the plague of unelected bureaucrats and politicians use them to once again restrict what they will, “allow” us to do ?

RANDOM TASK August 2, 2021 at 10:43 AM

yeah
anxiety is now an official opioid scrip

i would say that 80% of people have some sort of anxiety over random things

and have for the 250 years of this country
and this country thrived all those years over terrorism and natzis and communists

but the last 30 years the democrat party and now private companies are
trying to make you a slave to pills direct form china making them billions

and creating giant babies that have to have their feelings heard and addressed in immediate fashion and instant gratification or break down and scream like a spoiled child and rant about how they are not validated for being …..well unable to handle themselves

yes obviously there are extreme cases and those are in fact deserving treatment and psychologists and observation

the others who function until they feel they need to act out and whine about how people are mean and bullies because they dont pay attention to them or coddle them

this is the real pandemic
the few screaming for gratification and pandering for affection and applause

and forcing undo discrimination and oppression on people working and striving to better their lives that have to put their lives on hold or at least redirected to follow idiocy and gov control to appease self-loathing of people who refuse to be a part of society and control themselves in adult settings

again yes i agree there are people suffering and they should get help

this is for those who break down because the local starbucks is out of scones at 7pm

or the people who are so jealous they create drama upon themselves to gain sympathy and or monetary gain through the government claiming their anxiety is too powerful to live like everyone else so they need to be compensated to live like the hard working people who deal with problems daily and still manage to succeed ….

a real study should focus on the oppression and depression of people being forced by a gov in a free country to bend over for the few and allow media bias and a allegiance to an enemy state and their system of government

we lost the pill war now we are destine to the wrath of vaccines so the billionaires can be trillionaires through our suffering backed by a lame duck dem political agenda and oppression and division through imposed racism on us and our children …..

study that one captain

To Do List August 2, 2021 at 10:57 AM

So for this UCLA clown, if you look at his mountain of research paper topics, it is all about turning problems around to be mental health issues and covers illegal immigrant mental health, global warming, equity, political extremism and so on. My favorite is where he got a two for one, combining the first two above as “Strategic Locating of Refuges for Extreme Heat Events.”

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