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Research Matters for Creating Heat Adaptation Plans

Older woman walks down a city street carrying white parasol to protect from the sun

Philadelphia, PA, April 22, 2024

Climate change is driving an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events that will affect a growing number of people globally. Research has shown that older adults are at a higher risk of dying during a heat wave, but a recent study published in Nature Medicine found that age might not be the most important factor when looking at this population. Physical and cognitive function – such as the ability to perform basic daily tasks – can be a better predictor of an older person’s tolerance for extreme heat.

Josiah L. Kephart, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and Urban Health Collaborative at Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health, and Safiyyah M. Okoye, PhD, MSN, RN, assistant professor of nursing in Drexel's College of Nursing and Health Professions with a joint appointment in Dornsife's Department of Health Management and Policy, explain the significance of these findings in a commentary published in the same issue, Tackling heat-related mortality in aging populations.

They start by noting that the aging population is of particular concern for urban public health researchers, because “By 2050, the size of the global population over 60 years of age is projected to nearly double, with 80% of older people expected to reside in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).”

The research they examine studied 13,527 older adults from the nationally representative Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey, and found that older adults with the most severe physical and cognitive impairments had the highest risk of dying during a heat wave. Chronological age was found to not predict the risk of heat-related mortality.

Read the full news story on the Drexel Urban Health Collaborative's website:

Research Matters for Creating Heat Adaptation Plans