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Maybe AC is good for the GPA?

Dr. Steven Heidinger writes about the possible effects of air conditioning
Wellness Column by Dr. Steven Heidinger

It’s been said that you don’t appreciate what you have until you lose it. I know this is going to seem pretty superficial and far from profound when I’m telling you what we recently lost…air conditioning.

Due to an HVAC predicament, we recently suffered through an overheated home in the past week. I use the word “suffered” rather loosely because, aside from some sweaty days and nights, it really wasn’t that horrible.

I grew up in southern Ontario in a home with no air conditioning. I remember well the hot and humid nights when you prayed for just the slightest of breezes to come through the window for just a moment of relief. This is one of my “growing up in hard times” stories. As such, I love having air conditioning…in my car, at work, and mostly, in my home.

In the seven days without air conditioning, our dogs were constantly panting, my energy was zapped, my motivation for household chores was minimal, and we were all a little bit irritable.

Being a bit of a curious scientist, I asked Google Scholar whether there were any health ramifications of living without air conditioning. Of course, it is well known, the effects of long-term exposure to heat putting us at risk for heat stress, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke. What I found interesting were the studies relating the lack of air conditioning with poorer cognitive function.

A 2018 Harvard University study showed that in a non-air-conditioned school, for every one degree (Fahrenheit) increase in “school year temperature”, there was a one per cent reduction in amount learned during that year.

Another 2018 Harvard study showed how a 12-day summer heat wave affected students’ academic scores for those living without air conditioning compared to the students who were blessed with cooler, air-conditioned rooms. Memory tests, reaction time for colour tests, and addition/subtraction test scores all were negatively affected by the heat exposure. The dorm rooms without air cooling averaged 26-degrees Celsius over the course of the heat wave (compared to the 20.5-degree Celsius air-conditioned rooms).

I am writing this article still without air conditioning. My thermostat reads 29 degrees, and this is taking me nearly twice as long to complete my essay. Maybe there is something to this research.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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