Direct and indirect health impacts of climate change on the vulnerable elderly population in East China

Kinay, Pelin; Morse, Andrew P.; Villanueva, Elmer V.; Morrissey, Karyn and Staddon, Philip L. (2019). Direct and indirect health impacts of climate change on the vulnerable elderly population in East China. Environmental Reviews, 27(3) pp. 295–303.



The latest scientific advances on the impacts of climate change on the health of the elderly in East China were reviewed consulting peer-reviewed publications from 2000-2017. The direct impacts of climate change result from rising temperatures, heatwaves, and increases in the frequency of complex extreme weather events such as windstorms, floods, and droughts. The health and social consequences of these events are far-reaching, ranging from reduced labour productivity and heat-related deaths, through to direct physical injury during extreme weather events, the spread of infectious diseases, and mental health effects following widespread flooding or prolonged drought. Research has indicated that climate change will have the greatest impact on vulnerable groups of people, including the elderly population. However, there is a dearth of empirical evidence, a lack of focus on vulnerable segments of the population (especially elderly), limited understanding of how health status will change in the future, and lack of acknowledgement of how different regions in China vary in terms of the consequences of climate change. The main risk in East China that climate change may exacerbate is flooding (sea level rise, coastal and riverine, flood risk). However in some regions of East China such as in the provinces of Anhui, Jiangsu, Hebei and Shandong the biggest climate change risk is considered to be drought. Main health risks linked to climate change are evident as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases (heat stroke, exhaustion, and asthma), often caused by interactions between heatwave episodes and concurrent poor air quality.

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