Modern Australian


hotter temperatures will mean more deaths from injury

  • Written by Liz Hanna, Honorary Senior Fellow, Australian National University

What we suspected is now official: 2019 was Australia’s hottest year on record. The country’s average maximum temperature last year (30.69℃) was a scorching 2.09℃ hotter than the 1961-1990 average.

For the whole planet, 2019 is expected to come in second (behind 2016) making the last five years the hottest on record since 1880.

As we brace for increasingly hot summers, we are mindful extreme heat can pose significant health risks for vulnerable groups. But the effects of heat on the incidence of accidents and injury are less clear.

In research published today in Nature Medicine, researchers in the United States looked at the impact warmer temperatures will have on deaths from injury. They found if average temperatures warmed by 1.5℃, we could expect to see 1,600 more deaths each year across the US.

Given Australia is ahead of the global temperature curve, we could see an even greater number of deaths from injury per capita as a result of rising temperatures.

Read more: Hot and bothered: heat affects all of us, but older people face the highest health risks

What the study did and found

The researchers analysed death and temperature data collected from 1980 to 2017 across mainland United States (so their results excluded the states of Alaska and Hawaii).

They looked at records from more than five million injury deaths from this 38-year period. They also identified temperature anomalies by county and by month, to understand how these deaths could relate to spikes in the weather.

Using a method called Bayesian Spatio-temporal modelling, the authors combined this information to estimate the rates at which injury deaths would rise with a 1.5℃ temperature increase.

hotter temperatures will mean more deaths from injury Hotter temperatures have been associated with spikes in domestic and other violence. From shutterstock.com

They categorised injury deaths as either unintentional (transport, falls and drownings) or intentional (assaults and suicides), and stratified results further by gender and age group.

They found deaths from drownings would increase by as much as 13.7% in men aged 15-24 years, whereas assaults and suicides would increase by less than 3% across all groups. Transport deaths would rise by 2% for men aged 25-34 years and 0.5% for women in the same age group.

Overall, these increased risks would account for 1,601 additional deaths per year from injury across the US, an annual rise of 0.75% in overall deaths from injury in the population. They indicate 84% of these deaths would occur in males.

Although the primary focus was on 1.5℃ warming, the researchers also looked at a rise of 2℃. The found this would result in 2,135 additional deaths from injury (a 1% increase).

Why do deaths from injury increase in hot weather?

Higher temperatures are associated with irritability, and increases in conflict and interpersonal violence.

Research has shown each degree celsius increase in annual temperatures is linked to nearly a 6% average increase in homicides. Another study showed domestic violence rates increased by 40% when the daily maximum temperature exceeded 34℃.

Read more: How rising temperatures affect our health

Hyperthermia (abnormally high body temperature) can also lead to symptoms such as loss of concentration and fatigue. These factors can trigger incidents such as car accidents and faults operating mechanical equipment. So we can expect injuries to increase as we face more hot days.

A South Australian study of workers’ compensation claims found for every degree above 14℃, occupational injuries requiring more than three days off work increased modestly (0.2%).

Increases in drowning might occur due the higher proportions of people seeking relief in the water on hot days.

hotter temperatures will mean more deaths from injury Being too hot can lead to a loss of concentration or fatigue, which can increase the risk of accidents. From shutterstock.com

Importantly, climate change is heightening anxiety in rural communities, and more broadly throughout the population.

In Australia, heat is commonly associated with drought. Long droughts are known to be linked to spikes in suicide rates, especially among rural males.

We also know suicide rates rise in affected communities following bushfires, in the face of grief and trauma.

Read more: The rise of 'eco-anxiety': climate change affects our mental health, too

The reason for the gender disparity was not tested, but likely relates to the higher prevalence of risk-taking behaviour among males.

So what does this mean for Australia?

With global temperatures on course for a 3-5°C rise this century, limiting warming to 1.5℃ is optimistic. The effects are likely to be even greater than what is forecasted in this study.

This study assessed excess injury deaths with a level of warming Australia witnessed in 2019 alone.

Rising heat is possibly Australia’s number one threat from climate change. It leads to the catastrophic bushfires we’re seeing this summer, and pushes us beyond the temperatures our bodies can withstand.

When looking at deaths caused by heat, we need to look beyond those caused by heat-induced illness, and separate the many caused by injury.

Read more: How can we avoid future ‘epidemics’ of heat deaths?

We must strengthen the nation’s climate change and human health research to provide specific details on when, where and how we can best ameliorate heat harm.

We need to ramp up our prevention efforts in this space. All Australians should be made aware of the dangers of a hotter world through a federally funded public education strategy, akin to the successful “Life. Be in it” campaign, which successfully promoted the importance of being active.

Most urgently, we must focus on prevention through climate change mitigation, which will be the best and most far-reaching prevention strategy we can deliver.

Authors: Liz Hanna, Honorary Senior Fellow, Australian National University

Read more http://theconversation.com/car-accidents-drownings-violence-hotter-temperatures-will-mean-more-deaths-from-injury-129628

NEWS

how cities across the globe are going back to coronavirus restrictions

The World Health Organisation reported more than 230,000 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday — the world’s largest daily increase during the pandemic. The surge has forced governments in many places...

'Vertical cruise ships'? Here's how we can remake housing towers to be safer and better places to live

After 3,000 people in nine public housing towers in Melbourne were placed under the harshest coronavirus lockdown in Australia so far, acting Australian Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly referred to...

Ultraviolet radiation is a strong disinfectant. It may be what our schools, hospitals and airports need

ShutterstockYou may remember when US President Donald Trump suggested exposing coronavirus patients to UV (ultraviolet) light – or “just very powerful light” – to help treat them. The use of...

1 in 5 PhD students could drop out. Here are some tips for how to keep going

ShutterstockDoctoral students show high levels of stress in comparison to other students, and ongoing uncertainty in terms of graduate career outcomes can make matters worse.Before the pandemic, one in five...

what if we took all farm animals off the land and planted crops and trees instead?

Kira Volkov/ShutterstockCC BY-NDClimate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change.If you have a question you’d...

What Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods gets wrong about veterans returning to Vietnam

NetflixSpike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, out now on Netflix, tells the story of five Black US veterans who return to Vietnam to hunt for gold and recover the remains of...

despite the tough talk, the closure of Tiwai Point is far from a done deal

Marc DaalderAnother year, another round of hostage-taking by the owners of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.As always, Rio Tinto has made the first move, threatening to close New Zealand Aluminium...

More deaths in Victoria, as NSW COVID cluster triggers reactions in Queensland and South Australia

Uncertainty surrounding a cluster of COVID-19 cases linked to a Sydney hotel has prompted reactions from the Queensland and South Australian governments, as the Victorian situation continues to be critical.Victorian...

'Palace letters' reveal the palace's fingerprints on the dismissal of the Whitlam government

Independent AustraliaThe “palace letters” show the Australian Constitution’s susceptibility to self-interested behaviour by individual vice-regal representatives. They also reveal the vulnerability of Australian governments to secret destabilisation by proxy by...

'Palace letters' show the queen did not advise, or encourage, Kerr to sack Whitlam government

AAP/EPA/Toby MelvilleFor more than four decades, the question has been asked: did the queen know the governor-general, Sir John Kerr, was about to dismiss the Whitlam government, and did she...

What is love?

ShutterstockFrom songs and poems to novels and movies, romantic love is one of the most enduring subjects for artworks through the ages. But what about the science?Historical, cultural and even...

Cutting taxes for the wealthy is the worst possible response to this economic crisis

Australia’s response to the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is rightly considered one of the world’s best. At their best, our federal and state politicians have put...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

Capture the Moment - Why it's so Important to Cherish the First Year of ParenthoodHow to supercharge your immune system for cold and flu season9 Reasons Sydney Is the Best Place to LiveWhat Do Pool Cleaners Do?ULTIMATE GUIDE TO STUDENT ACCOMMODATION6 Tips For Setting Up a Beautifully Functional Home NurseryPruning, What Is It And Are You Doing It Correctly?Fantastic Fishing Destinations Around AustraliaAre 4wd wheels expensive?What Actually Do Stamp Collectors Do?How to find affordable steel blue work boots in Australia for safety6 Ways To Get Quality Sleep When It’s HotThe Dangers of Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure7 Tips for Renovating a Heritage Home8 Bathroom Renovation Tips for the Elderly