Rising temperatures caused by climate change has been linked to the substantial rise in domestic violence against women in South Asia, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry on Wednesday.
About the study: An international team of researchers collected emotional, physical and sexual violence data reported by 194,871 girls and women aged 15 to 49 from India, Pakistan and Nepal between October 2010 to April 2018.
The results: The researchers found that with each 1°C (33.8°F) increase in temperature, there was an 8% increase in physical violence and 7.3% rise in sexual violence. With every 1°C increase in the annual mean temperature, they found a mean increase in intimate partner violence (IPV) prevalence of 4.49%.
Researchers also noted that the IPV prevalence would increase by 21% by the end of the century under the “unlimited emissions scenarios,” with India being most likely to experience the highest IPV prevalence increase (23.5%) in the 2090s, followed by Nepal (14.8%) and Pakistan (5.9%).
Although the increase in violence against women was found present across all income groups, researchers note that the largest increases were among lower-income and rural households.
The correlation: As the extreme heat can cause crop failure, affect income and force people to stay home, families are placed under increased stress and pressure, giving rise to violence against women.
“[High temperatures] cause tremendous economic stress in families,” Indian activist Suniti Gargi explained, according to The Guardian. “If a man can migrate to another state to get work, it can help keep the home fires burning but when he cannot for whatever reason, his wife is at the receiving end of his anger and feelings of uselessness.”
Previous research: The study supports previous research that shows how climate change can fuel violence against women, including research from Madrid that found the risk of intimate partner femicide rose by 40% when a heatwave hit. In Kenya, women also had higher rates of reporting IPV during severe weather conditions.
“There is growing evidence that extreme heat can affect stress, lower inhibitions, increase aggression, and exacerbate mental illness,” said Michelle Bell, co-author of the study. “The true public health impact of climate change is likely underestimated due to many other less well-studied health risks, such as that described in this study.”
If you or anyone you know is struggling with domestic violence, please contact the domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233. For a list of international helplines, visit www.befriends.org.