Adverse heat-health outcomes and critical environmental limits (Pennsylvania State University Human Environmental Age Thresholds project)

S. Tony Wolf, Daniel J. Vecellio, W. Larry Kenney

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: The earth's climate is warming and the frequency, duration, and severity of heat waves are increasing. Meanwhile, the world's population is rapidly aging. Epidemiological data demonstrate exponentially greater increases in morbidity and mortality during heat waves in adults ≥65 years. Laboratory data substantiate the mechanistic underpinnings of age-associated differences in thermoregulatory function. However, the specific combinations of environmental conditions (i.e., ambient temperature and absolute/relative humidity) above which older adults are at increased risk of heat-related morbidity and mortality are less clear. Methods: This review was conducted to (1) examine the recent (past 3 years) literature regarding heat-related morbidity and mortality in the elderly and discuss projections of future heat-related morbidity and mortality based on climate model data, and (2) detail the background and unique methodology of our ongoing laboratory-based projects aimed toward identifying the specific environmental conditions that result in elevated risk of heat illness in older adults, and the implications of using the data toward the development of evidence-based safety interventions in a continually-warming climate (PSU HEAT; Human Environmental Age Thresholds). Results: The recent literature demonstrates that extreme heat continues to be increasingly detrimental to the health of the elderly and that this is apparent across the world, although the specific environmental conditions above which older adults are at increased risk of heat-related morbidity and mortality remain unclear. Conclusion: Characterizing the environmental conditions above which risk of heat-related illnesses increase remains critical to enact policy decisions and mitigation efforts to protect vulnerable people during extreme heat events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23801
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Volume35
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics

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