Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Summer temperature variability may increase mortality risk for elderly with chronic disease

Date:
April 9, 2012
Source:
Harvard School of Public Health
Summary:
Seemingly small changes in summer temperature swings -- as little as 1C more than usual -- may shorten life expectancy for elderly people with chronic medical conditions, and could result in thousands of additional deaths each year, new research suggests.

New research from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) suggests that seemingly small changes in summer temperature swings -- as little as 1C more than usual -- may shorten life expectancy for elderly people with chronic medical conditions, and could result in thousands of additional deaths each year. While previous studies have focused on the short-term effects of heat waves, this is the first study to examine the longer-term effects of climate change on life expectancy.

Related Articles


The study will be published online April 9, 2012 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"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," said Antonella Zanobetti, senior research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH and lead author of the study. "This variability can be harmful for susceptible people."

In recent years, scientists have predicted that climate change will not only increase overall world temperatures but will also increase summer temperature variability, particularly in mid-latitude regions such as the mid-Atlantic states of the U.S. and sections of countries such as France, Spain, and Italy. These more volatile temperature swings could pose a major public health problem, the authors note.

Previous studies have confirmed the association between heat waves and higher death rates. But this new research goes a step further. Although heat waves can kill in the short term, the authors say, even minor temperature variations caused by climate change may also increase death rates over time among elderly people with diabetes, heart failure, chronic lung disease, or those who have survived a previous heart attack.

The researchers used Medicare data from 1985 to 2006 to follow the long-term health of 3.7 million chronically ill people over age 65 living in 135 U.S. cities. They evaluated whether mortality among these people was related to variability in summer temperature, allowing for other things that might influence the comparison, such as individual risk factors, winter temperature variance, and ozone levels. They compiled results for individual cities, then pooled the results.

They found that, within each city, years when the summer temperature swings were larger had higher death rates than years with smaller swings. Each 1C increase in summer temperature variability increased the death rate for elderly with chronic conditions between 2.8% and 4.0%, depending on the condition. Mortality risk increased 4.0% for those with diabetes; 3.8% for those who'd had a previous heart attack; 3.7% for those with chronic lung disease; and 2.8% for those with heart failure. Based on these increases in mortality risk, the researchers estimate that greater summer temperature variability in the U.S. could result in more than 10,000 additional deaths per year.

In addition, the researchers found the mortality risk was 1% to 2% greater for those living in poverty and for African Americans. The risk was 1% to 2% lower for people living in cities with more green space.

Mortality risk was higher in hotter regions, the researchers found. Noting that physiological studies suggest that the elderly and those with chronic conditions have a harder time than others adjusting to extreme heat, they say it's likely these groups may also be less resilient than others to bigger-than-usual temperature swings.

"People adapt to the usual temperature in their city. That is why we don't expect higher mortality rates in Miami than in Minneapolis, despite the higher temperatures," said Joel Schwartz, professor of environmental epidemiology at HSPH and senior author of the paper. "But people do not adapt as well to increased fluctuations around the usual temperature. That finding, combined with the increasing age of the population, the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes, and possible increases in temperature fluctuations due to climate change, means that this public health problem is likely to grow in importance in the future."

Support for the study was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Antonella Zanobetti, Marie S. O'Neill, Carina J. Gronlund, and Joel D. Schwartz. Summer temperature variability and long-term survival among elderly people with chronic disease. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences., April 9, 2012 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1113070109

Cite This Page:

Harvard School of Public Health. "Summer temperature variability may increase mortality risk for elderly with chronic disease." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120409164511.htm>.
Harvard School of Public Health. (2012, April 9). Summer temperature variability may increase mortality risk for elderly with chronic disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 26, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120409164511.htm
Harvard School of Public Health. "Summer temperature variability may increase mortality risk for elderly with chronic disease." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120409164511.htm (accessed January 26, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, January 26, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Mistakes Should Serve a Lesson Says WHO

Ebola Mistakes Should Serve a Lesson Says WHO

AFP (Jan. 25, 2015) The World Health Organization&apos;s chief on Sunday admitted the UN agency had been caught napping on Ebola, saying it should serve a lesson to avoid similar mistakes in future. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Disneyland Measles Outbreak Spreads To 5 States

Disneyland Measles Outbreak Spreads To 5 States

Newsy (Jan. 24, 2015) Much of the Disneyland measles outbreak is being blamed on the anti-vaccination movement. The CDC encourages just about everyone get immunized. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Growing Measles Outbreak Worries Calif. Parents

Growing Measles Outbreak Worries Calif. Parents

AP (Jan. 23, 2015) Public health officials are rushing to contain a measles outbreak that has sickened 70 people across 6 states and Mexico. The AP&apos;s Raquel Maria Dillon has more. (Jan. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins