Heat-Related Mortality Due to Climate Change – Associations, Confounders, Vulnerabilities and Adaptations: An Epidemiologic Review (2009-2015)

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The rising global temperatures are a consequence of the increasing concentrations of the greenhouse gases (GHG) in our atmosphere. This unprecedented yet steady increase in GHG concentrations has led to an increase in the incidence of adverse high-temperature weather phenomena. The aim of this study was to perform a detailed and systematic literature review to study the global dynamic between elevated ambient Page 28 2016 Appalachian Student Research Forum temperatures and heat-related mortality. The review also aimed at exploring the effect of pollutants as possible confounders, to identify vulnerable populations and to study population adaptations to heat that might mitigate heat-related mortality in urban settings. The review was performed exclusively on PubMed. Only epidemiological studies were selected. A time constraint ranging from 2009 to 2015 was applied to the review findings. Only peer-reviewed journals published in the English language were included. The following key terms were used for heat-related mortality associations - heat, high temperature and mortality. Additional keywords were used for the confounders, vulnerable populations and adaptations sections, such as “ozone”, “vulnerable subgroups” or “adaptations”. Studies reporting data on cold effects were excluded from the review. The search resulted in a total of 83 studies, which were included in the review based on the selection criteria. These studies were categorized and presented in four sections - heatmortality associations, effects of pollutants as confounders, vulnerable populations and adaptations. It was found that elevated ambient temperature was associated with high mortality. Additionally, risks of mortality were found to be higher for certain populations, particularly the elderly (65 years or older), infants and the socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. In conclusion, the heat-associated risks of mortality have increased with the escalating climate-change scenario. However, it is important to note that these risks are dependent on factors such as geographical location, socioeconomic status, age, and occupational status. Adaptations to heat are possible in the form of increased use of air-conditioning and promotion of “green” living spaces.


Johnson City, TN

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