When the temperature rise, so too do suicide rates, crime and violence. Researchers who monitor algorithms note that online aggression increases during heatwaves, as evidenced by an increase in hostile language.

Our very language captures the connection between heat and emotion—when we are annoyed, we get “hot under the collar.” When we are angry, our “blood boils,” and when something gets to be too much, we must “let off steam.”

Crime rates skyrocket during the summer, mostly notably violent crimes including murder and aggravated assault.

Why the increase in aggression? Hot weather increases body temperature, which in turn increases heart rate and blood pressure. Increased blood pressure and heart rate can lead to discomfort, which researchers attribute to the correlation between high heat and increased anger and violence.

Another factor can be traced back to sleep. Anyone that has lived through a heatwave without the benefit of air conditioning knows that quality sleep becomes problematic. Over time, the accumulative effects can lead to memory loss, lack of focus and increased irritability.

Researchers have also found that heat also impacts the neurotransmitter serotonin, one of our most important mood regulators, closely linked with keeping aggression in check. Serotonin helps relay information about skin temperature to the brain’s hypothalamus, which goes on to control shivering and sweating responses when necessary.

Awareness is key to decrease the possibility of aggression and conflict. When possible, stay indoors (air conditioned areas), drink more water than usual and limit your use of electronic devices if you find they are causing you to feel angry or upset.

Christina Martinez, LCSW