Warm weather is usually celebrated, but it’s important to keep in mind that warmer temperatures are linked to to an increase in deaths—especially for the elderly.
We’re not talking about extremes here. We’re talking slight increases in temperature. A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that even a 1 degree Celsius increase, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, in temperature during the summer can increase death rates for elderly people who have a chronic health condition. The study included health data from 1985 through 2006 for 3.7 million senior citizens, aged 65+, who possessed some form of chronic illness. The seniors lived in 135 different cities across the U.S.
“The effect of temperature patterns on long-term mortality has not been clear to this point. We found that, independent of heat waves, high day to day variability in summer temperatures shortens life expectancy,” according to researcher Antonella Zanobetti, senior research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard. “This variability can be harmful for susceptible people.”
Areas With Great Temperature Fluctuation Are More Risky for Elderly
The study shows that, generally, people adapt to the usual temperatures in their city; even in places with higher temperatures, like Miami. It’s the cities that have a “larger temperature swing” where the elderly population is put in jeopardy.
Death risk increased for the individuals suffering from the following conditions:
- Diabetes — Death risk increased by 4%
- Heart Attack Sufferers — Death risk increased by 3.8 %
- Heart Failure Sufferers — Death risk increased by 2.8 %
- Chronic Lung Disease — Death risk increased by 3.7 %
It’s All About Preparation
Rising temperatures in conjunction with an aging baby boomer population—not to mention as increasing prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes—means that this public health issue is likely to to become a big concern in the future.
*The Harvard study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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