Young people will be mostly the victim of rising temperatures caused by global heating. According to new research, the increase in temperatures is likely to increase violent deaths of primarily young people from road crashes, violence, assaults, suicides, and drowning.
The new analysis uses data of nearly 6 million deaths in the US to calculate the impacts of a 2C rise in temperature, which is the primary goal set by the nations worldwide. Every year there would be about 2,100 more fatal injuries in the US alone due to an increase in temperature as the scientists calculated.
On hotter days, people tend to spend time outside more and drink more alcohol, and hot weather is also known to increase rates of violence and suicide. Only a small reduction in the number of deaths falls among older adults noticed in the analysis, and that was probably because of the less ice in winter.
Earlier, research focused on chronic diseases such as heart failure and infectious diseases, including malaria, to study the impact of the climate emergency on health. Currently, around the world, about 10% of all fatalities are the deaths from injuries, and until now, the impact of global heating on this type of deaths had been little studied.
The scientists say the roles of young people are vital in supporting societies and economies. Therefore the measures to tackle deaths of this group of the population from injury must be considered as a public health priority.
“Our results show how much climate change can affect young people,” said Prof Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London. “We need to respond to this threat with better preparedness in terms of emergency services, social support, and health warnings.”
The increase in temperature is likely to increase injury deaths in all nations, he said. However, the local factors like the standard of road safety or level of gun control would influence the extent of the increase. In the current scenario, as the world is on track for 3-4C temperature rise, the increase in injury deaths could be even higher.
The research was based on the data consists of deaths from injuries recorded in every county of the mainland US between 1980 to 2017 and temperature data to find the months with the average temperature 2C higher than usual. The researchers came to the decision that people get adapted to normal local conditions but are affected by unusual temperatures in the research published in the journal Nature Medicine.
The scientists estimate the annual increase in deaths that would result from a 2C rise by comparing the data. Men are more likely to die out of injuries compared to women, and the researchers found that 84% of the additional deaths occurred to men.
The age group of 15-34 found to be most affected. Around 42% of the extra deaths were due to road crashes, while that from suicide was 30%. Deaths from violence and drowning made up about 14% of the total — the cases of drowning increase in hot weather when people swim in more numbers.
“There is a long history of work that shows injuries are fundamentally seasonal,” said Ezzati. “Some of this is obvious – people drown more in summer. We also know that warmth influences both our physiology and our behavior.”
However, the reasons behind the increase of deaths from suicide and violent assault in hot weather are not fully understood. But the researchers said people spending more time outdoors than usual might have created the situations with a higher risk of confrontations.
In hot weather, people usually become more agitated and drink more alcohol, which could lead to more assaults. As per the previous research, the high temperatures are associated with higher levels of mental distress, especially in young people.
More than 5 million people were already killed from injuries a year, which was more than the deaths from HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, and the trend is rising. The measures to combat deaths from injuries should be included in the policies to tackle the climate emergency, said Shanthi Ameratunga and Alistair Woodward of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, in an accompanying commentary on the research.
“The need to address this major public health problem is particularly urgent in low- and middle-income countries that experience over 80% of the global injury burden and are generally more vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather,” they said.
“The public health community tends to forget that injury deaths are actually a pretty big factor [in overall mortality],” said Ezzati. “The emphasis on young people is an important aspect of the story, as they are educationally and economically active.”