A new study comes to challenge the previously held findings that with climate change and warmer winters, the mortality rate among senior citizens will also decrease.
Global average temperature experienced a definite increase over the last century. By the end of this century, even more elevated temperatures will be felt. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data reveals that over the last century the global temperature rose by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
The end of our century is expected to see an increase from the current 9.5 average to 11.5 degrees. This is one aspect of climate change that was taken into consideration by previous studies that assessed the incidence of death during the cold season.
Previous estimates stated that colder temperatures, particularly those felt during winter increase the mortality of senior citizens at least two fold. Yet, as winters become warmer due to climate change, the new study begs to differ regarding the decreasing trend that mortality rates would experience.
Professor Patrick Kinney, lead author of the study and coming from the Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, New York, summarized the conclusion of the study:
“If cold temperatures were directly responsible for winter mortality, one might expect a more pronounced relative winter mortality excess in cities where winter to summer temperature differences are larger, or where winter temperatures are colder”.
To understand if there is correlation between lower mortality rates and warmer winters, the research team looked at temperatures data and mortality records pooled from 39 cities across the U.S. and France.
For the U.S. the data was consistent with the period between 1985 and 2006 across 36 cities. These included New York and Miami. For France, the data sets were gathered from 1971-2006 across Lyon, Paris and Marseille.
The temperature records were analyzed on a day to day basis and correlated with mortality records from each of the cities in question. A comparison was made between how many deaths had occurred in those cities that have warmer winters and how many had occurred in the cities with cold winter months.
Surprisingly, the results showed that mortality rates were very similar for both cases. Thus, the team concluded that temperature and climate change does not bring about an increase or decrease of mortality levels.
Instead, a number of other factors play a more decisive role than temperature in deaths occurring during winter months.
For instance, influenza severely affects senior citizens in winter months when the immune system is lowered.
The study was published in the Environmental Research Letters journal.
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