As temperatures rise, so do tempers


The heat is on: A pedestrian using the umbrella in Jalan Ampang to shield from the blazing sun. — AZMAN GHANI/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian cities have got hotter and the rising temperatures may also affect the moods of the people, say experts.

HELP University Associate Professor and Psychology Department research coordinator Dr Eugene YJ Tee said numerous studies had shown that there was a connection between temperature and moods.

For example, people can get more pessimistic and even more depressed in some countries during colder seasons. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or more commonly, winter depression.

Tee said while scientists knew little about it, many attributed it to the lack of light during prolonged colder seasons.

“We see less of this being reported in Malaysia – however, given our temperate, tropical and balmy weather, I suspect that when the mercury rises, we will experience a different set of effects.

“I don’t think its depression we’ll face, but increased irritability and potentially aggressive responses brought about by increasingly hot climates – something some scientists call the temperature-aggression hypothesis, ” he said when contacted.

Tee however said the link between temperate and aggressive intent, while intuitive, is much too simplistic.

He said whether an increase in temperatures led to aggression depended on other factors, such as economic stress, population density, and political polarisation.

He added that it was crucial for individuals to be aware of how their environment could affect their moods.

He said if someone realised a situation was causing them to become more confrontational or aggressive than usual, it would be ideal to change it.

“In a way, you are regulating your emotion by using what researchers call situational modification.

“If you can avoid unpleasant situations altogether, all the better.

“In the same way you might have been advised to not make important decisions on an empty stomach, you can reign in your impulsive behaviours by not acting at the spur of an uncomfortably hot environment, ” said Tee.

Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris clinical psychology lecturer Prof Dr Rahmattullah Khan Abdul Wahab Khan said hot weather would affect moods and increase aggression.

“Heat can also increase irritability. Stay indoors more. If you have to go out, try to be under the shade and hydrate yourself, ” he said.

Prof Rahmattullah said people should also take the necessary precautions and avoid exerting themselves in such hot weather.

On March 7, a study on land surface temperatures showed that Malaysian cities have got significantly hotter over the past few decades.

The Think City study, which observed temperatures in the Kuala Lumpur city centre, Bayan Lepas, George Town, Johor Baru and Ipoh, saw peak temperatures rising by between 1.64°C and 6.75°C over the comparison period.

While the comparisons of temperatures within each city were carried out across different time frames, and each terrain held unique geographical characteristics that influenced the temperature, a consistent increase across all five locations was observed.

The rise in temperature in urban areas has been linked primarily to the urban heat island effect, a lack of greenery and global warming.

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