dementia risk

People living with dementia at risk from rising temperatures, study finds

LONDON, 7 April 2022   As climate change drives rising temperatures, the UK can expect to see increased emergency dementia admissions, find researchers from The George Institute for Global Health and Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Researchers explored the association between daily temperature and counts of emergency admissions for dementia in England, and projected future health burdens in people living with dementia under two climate change scenarios (a high emissions scenario where global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, and a low emissions scenario where global greenhouse gas emissions are sizeably reduced through mitigation).

The results, published in Environment International, describe how every 1֯C rise in temperature above 17֯C is associated with a 4.5% increase in risk of emergency admissions for people living with dementia in England.

Jessica Gong, a PhD student at of The George Institute for Global Health, who led the research said:

“Our findings underline the association between rising temperatures and dementia-related acute admissions. How our high- and low- scenario projections play out will be determined by how robust and effective climate change mitigation is in the immediate present and future. What is clear, however, is that UK summers will get hotter, and we may see an increase in the number of people living with dementia requiring emergency admission as a result.”

Under the high emissions scenario, the projections model suggests emergency admissions may increase by 300% by 2040.

Dr Shakoor Hajat, Associate Professor, Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said:

“It is imperative that people living with dementia are considered a high-risk group during hot weather. In this way, when hot weather is forecast, caregivers can anticipate some of the dangers of heat-exacerbated symptoms while hospital emergency departments can best plan for hot weather periods.”

Professor Kent Buse, Director of the global Healthier Societies Programme at The George Institute, said:

"Climate change and population ageing are two of the most significant global health challenges facing us in the 21st century. This timely and valuable research, which maps the impact of global warming on current and future dementia burdens, shows one of the many ways the two are linked. For me, it is all about prevention. We need more urgency & accountability to reduce global heating for the health of people and planet."

The published article is available here.