Last Summer, everyone I spoke to bemoaned the fact that we had no Summer. Now that we are experiencing a heatwave, the same people don’t seem much happier.This of course may simply be because the British just love to moan about the weather but I think it is perhaps deeper than that. Not being good in heat, I am known to be a bit “waspy” on hot days. The trouble is for us British, there is no chance of becoming acclimatised to these temperatures, hence they can make us feel uncomfortable and irritable. Heat can exacerbate this irritation in many ways; high night-time temperatures can affect the quality of our sleep which inevitably leads to a bad mood. Dehydration is common, making us feel lethargic and causing headaches, and we can also feel a sense of frustration that we can’t do anything about the weather. My daughter today was whining that she was too hot and though I gave her tips for cooling down she said none of them worked and stamped her foot in anger.I think it is fair to say that heat is associated with reduced concentration, depression, sleepiness, and lack of energy.
Even more worrying is the evidence that shows that heatwaves are also associated with violent behavior, aggression, and a higher rate of drug and alcohol abuse. History appears to show that rioting is more likely when the weather is warm and the demands of school or work have faded into the background.Think about the London riots of two years ago; they occurred over five warm August evenings; this could of course be about a greater volume of people out and about on balmy nights, all ready to run rampant but I think it is the mood which the heat engenders which is also a major factor.One theory holds that people are more easily agitated in the heat because adrenaline and testosterone levels rise in the warmer temperatures. For decades studies by psychologists have looked at the links between temperature and aggression. Some have shown hot cities have higher crime rates. American psychologist Craig Anderson has examined the links between heat and temperament for 10 years.”Field studies have shown cities that reported higher temperatures consistently above 32°C had greater rates of domestic violence, assaults…” Another report stated “Police in New York and Chicago worry about long hot summers. The problem there is not so much the fact that it’s very hot, but that it’s very humid and you can’t sweat which causes difficulties with maintaining core body temperature.”
When the sun is out but temperatures aren’t too high and one doesn’t have to be constantly trying to find a shady spot, moods are usually raised and everyone is smiling and feeling optimistic. When it gets really hot though we can’t cope; few houses have air-conditioning and only 25% of cars on our roads have air conditioning. I’m sure road-rage is rife when stuck in a traffic jam in blistering heat. So perhaps it is unsurprising that heatwaves track crime waves, and if the current heatwave continues whilst the government continues to cut welfare, maybe we should all have cause for concern.