Hot weather might be leading to an increase in hate speech and other hate crimes.
Many people are familiar with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is generally attributed to the lack of sunlight and vitamin D during winter months in areas that get snowy and cold. Some individuals notice mood fluctuations, getting particularly sad, depressed and irritable during these months. SAD is actually a recognized mental health condition that is generally treated with a combination of psychotherapy and, often, medication. However, the effects of heat waves and hot weather on mental health is much less talked about. Nevertheless, these extreme temperature fluctuations can be just as detrimental.
As regions of the West Coast are recording high heat waves in excess of 110 degrees many days in a row, the rate of online harassment and hate speech has risen substantially. This also applies to crime in general, a troublesome trend emerging with high temperatures.
Research published in the journal Science, looked at data from more than 2,000 counties in the United States over a period of 25 years. The findings showed that for “every 1°C increase in temperature, there was a corresponding 2% increase in the crime rate.” Lead author Stewart Lawrence said that the link between heat and crime is likely due to the fact that “people are more likely to engage in risky or impulsive behavior” as temperatures increase.
In a separate 2021 study, sex offenses rose by “4.5% for every 5°C added between 2007 and 2017” in some of the largest cities in the US. According to a 2020 study by the National Library of Medicine, “homicide rose by 9.5% in Chicago and 8.8% in New York for every additional 5°C climate.”
A 2014 report by the Department of Justice (DOJ) evaluated a seasonal pattern in violent crime over the past two decades. Illegal activities skyrocketed during the summer months in areas that experience high heat, including June, July, and August. Sexual assaults, homicides, and gun violence also tend to increase during heat waves and decrease as the climate becomes milder.
Now, new statistics are showing that hate speech on Twitter increased by “22% this summer with heat temperatures between 107- and 113-degree Fahrenheit” compared to cooler days with half the recorded temperatures. This means that already far-too-high hate crime levels will only get worse during heat waves. Online harassment is at an all-time high, in general, in America, with most scenarios motivated by political views, stances, and expressions. Many people have suffered from hate crime-related offenses.
Understanding that the potential for hate crimes increases with rising temperatures, law enforcement officers and other public safety officials can come up with proactive ways to combat these numbers, including simply making the public more aware. Citizens can also take measures to avoid feelings higher levels of distress including staying indoors in air-conditioned spaces and taking frequent breaks while outside in cool, shady areas. Understanding the relationship between high temperatures and crime can help everyone take measures to avoid being subjected. Those those are experiencing higher than normal levels of anger should work with a mental health professional to manage this stress.