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Wildfires linked with increases in mental health problems in nearby residents, study finds

·1 min

Public health leaders should pay close attention to both physical and mental well-being when helping people affected by wildfires. A study examining over 7 million residents near large wildfires in California found that these events are associated with significant changes in mental health. The study analyzed the increase in prescriptions for antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and anxiety medications during periods when wildfires occurred. It revealed a higher number of prescriptions for women and older adults. The study suggests the need for mental health care after wildfires may be even higher, particularly among underserved rural populations. Wildfires have been linked to increased risks of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep problems, alcohol and substance use disorders, and more. Public health officials are urged to prioritize mental health care and ensure access to services and programs for resilience. The effects of wildfire-related trauma may persist for years and require ongoing attention and support.