Sunday, May 18, 2008

How Science Explains 'Goin' Troppo'

The heat and humidity of Northern Australia, plus lashings of booze, really does send the locals a bit nuts, particularly when the monsoons are on their way :

...surgeons at the Royal Darwin Hospital who analysed facial fracture rates have concluded that the period of extreme heat, leaden skies but little rain, provokes a surge of violence.

In an analysis presented to a medical conference in Hong Kong this week, the doctors showed that fractures resulting in hospital treatment were 40 per cent higher in the months when daily minimum temperatures at night were highest, humidity peaked and the rainfall and hours of sunshine were lowest.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says that the rate of injuries from assaults in the region is at least five times higher than the national average. Nine in every ten facial fracture admissions are the result of violence. Dr Thomas and his team studied monthly hospital admissions over the 12 years to 2006 and plotted them against historic weather data on temperature, humidity, rainfall and sunshine.

“Hot nights spell trouble when there's all that warmth but no rain to relieve it and bring the tension down,” Dr Thomas said.

Dr Mathew Brambling, a lecturer in psychology at Queensland University of Technology, says it may be no coincidence that the Northern Territory ranks second worldwide in hospital admissions of facial fractures behind Greenland, which is cloaked in extended periods of darkness.

Shorter, darker days could affect the secretion of neurochemicals involved in mood, giving rise to the condition called seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, he said. Heatwaves had been found to increase aggression, impulsiveness, risk-taking behaviour, violence and suicide.