- The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment
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finding 9.2 : health-impacts-vary-with-age-and-life-stage
People experience different inherent sensitivities to the impacts of climate change at different ages and life stages [High Confidence]. For example, the very young and the very old are particularly sensitive to climate-related health impacts.
This finding is from chapter 9 of The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment.
Process for developing key messages: The chapter was developed through technical discussions of relevant evidence and expert deliberation by the report authors at several workshops, teleconferences, and email exchanges. The authors considered inputs and comments submitted by the public, the National Academies of Sciences, and Federal agencies. For additional information on the overall report process, see Appendices 2–3.
The author team identified a number of populations affected by climate change health impacts, including communities of color and low-income, immigrant, and limited English proficiency groups; Indigenous populations; children and pregnant women; older adults; certain occupational groups; persons with disabilities; and persons with chronic medical conditions. This list of populations was identified to reflect current understandings related to how the health of particular groups of people or particular places are affected by climate change in the United States. While not exhaustive, these populations of concern are those most commonly identified and discussed in reviews of climate change health impacts on vulnerable populations. In this chapter, the order of these populations is not prioritized. While there are other populations that may be threatened disproportionately by climate change, the authors focused the sections of this chapter on populations for which there is substantive literature. In addition to this chapter’s summary of vulnerable populations, each of the health outcome chapters in the report includes discussion of populations of concern. Some populations may be covered more extensively in these other chapters; for instance, homeless populations are discussed in Chapter 8: Mental Health, as the literature on this population focuses primarily on mental health.
Description of evidence base: There is strong, consistent evidence from multiple studies that children have inherent sensitivities to climate-related health impacts. There are multiple, high-quality studies concerning the impact of changes in ground-level ozone, particulate matter, and aeroallergens on increases in childhood asthma episodes and other adverse respiratory effects in children.3dca835b-beb7-49f5-b9c1-54753dc54ddc bc881478-a19f-48b7-af8e-40c36deaa679 0f20f4d5-6621-41f2-a728-827975453e2c aa39f53c-b544-4f17-9bf9-59b1e4636b56 In addition, the literature supports a finding that children are vulnerable to waterborne pathogens in drinking water and through exposures while swimming. There is a positive and statistically significant association between heavy rain and emergency department visits for children with gastrointestinal illness, though evidence comes from regional studies and is not at the national scale.197b91b6-04d3-429a-9a6c-90c784d86c1f 603e74e7-cfae-45ff-bf78-4c38f32aa678 The science also supports a finding that children’s mental health is affected by exposures to traumatic weather events, which can undermine cognitive development and contribute to psychiatric disorders.bbd5cea5-84f0-4f77-95ed-45c80f636a8a 12483624-82b7-4221-9a35-5a247289e4fe
There is also strong, consistent evidence from multiple studies that older adults have inherent sensitivities to climate-related health impacts. In particular, exposure to extreme ambient temperature is an important determinant of health in older adultse4c07020-0c97-4a6c-ab4a-1859aaebd5ab 07b2dd38-4085-4184-a498-ec32526d710f and has been associated with increased hospital admissions for cardiovascular, respiratory, and metabolic disorders.4695344e-33e4-457d-a4e8-514481c7befe 7ed57375-4f4f-4157-9784-0d09fb2beae1 In addition, older adults are particularly affected by extreme weather events that compromise the availability and safety of food and water supplies; interrupt communications, utilities, and emergency services; and destroy or damage homes and the built environment.35e05ba9-a2e0-4178-a809-8c9bfe7be898 81e4da11-12ba-4f0e-8bdb-ca6a8dadd63d a5db04e0-2a4f-4ddf-af07-a64797095d8e 65736c68-a5c9-44e8-acb7-879ef878a275 Some functional and mobility impairments make older adults less able to evacuate when necessary.b00a1349-fb5f-4e2d-b1bc-cfceb0863de2 1964a748-c888-46f9-aedc-dc2d27930f17
New information and remaining uncertainties: There is less information with which to quantify climate-related impacts on children and older adults at a national level given limited data availability. Some studies of age-related vulnerability have limited geographic scope or focus on single events in particular locations. Nevertheless, multiple factors, all with some degree of uncertainty, converge to determine climate-related vulnerability across age groups.
Assessment of confidence based on evidence: Based on the evidence presented in the peer-reviewed literature, there is high confidence that a wide range of health effects exacerbated by climate change will be experienced by vulnerable age groups, especially young children and older adults. Both qualitative and quantitative studies have been published about the effects of age or life stage on vulnerability to health impacts, and that evidence is consistent and of good quality.
- Temperature Extremes and Health: Impacts of Climate Variability and Change in the United States (07b2dd38)
- Air pollution and childhood respiratory allergies in the United States (0f20f4d5)
- Handbook of PTSD, Second Edition: Science and Practice (12483624)
- The age of reason: Financial decisions over the life cycle and implications for regulation (1964a748)
- Association between rainfall and pediatric emergency department visits for acute gastrointestinal illness (197b91b6)
- Chapter 2 Lessons Learned on Forced Relocation of Older Adults (35e05ba9)
- Short-term associations between ambient air pollutants and pediatric asthma emergency department visits (3dca835b)
- CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report — United States, 2011 (4695344e)
- Discharge-based QMRA for estimation of public health risks from exposure to stormwater-borne pathogens in recreational waters in the United States (603e74e7)
- Growing Old in a Changing Climate: Meeting the Challenges of an Ageing Population and Climate Change (65736c68)
- Extreme High Temperatures and Hospital Admissions for Respiratory and Cardiovascular Diseases (7ed57375)
- Providing shelter to nursing home evacuees in disasters: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina (81e4da11)
- Rapid assessment of the needs and health status of older adults after Hurricane Charley--Charlotte, DeSoto, and Hardee Counties, Florida, August 27-31, 2004 (a5db04e0)
- The effect of air pollution on lung development from 10 to 18 years of age (aa39f53c)
- Heat Stress and Public Health: A Critical Review (b00a1349)
- Disasters, victimization, and children’s mental health (bbd5cea5)
- The effects of fine particle components on respiratory hospital admissions in children (bc881478)
- Climate Change and Extreme Heat Events (e4c07020)
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