In the United States, as climate change continues to trigger unusual temperature fluctuations, injuries such as drownings, falls and assaults can kill as many as 2,135 people each year,media reported. The findings from researchers from Imperial College London, Columbia University and Harvard University were published today in Nature Medicine. While the fluctuations in temperature –— unusually hot and cold alternates — the link between injuries remains unexplained, the researchers say their speculation may help to advance the effort needed to prevent these deaths.
The researchers point out that research into the harm caused by climate change has been a blind spot in this area. Previous studies have focused on how climate change is causing more deaths from heat stroke or mosquito-borne diseases. According to WHO data, about 250,000 people will die each year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress exacerbated by climate change between 2030 and 2050.
But globally, 5 million people die each year from injuries, accounting for nearly one-third of all deaths. Yet many of these injuries could have been avoided, which is why researchers point to efforts to better prepare for future catastrophic climate change.
Some of these injuries are unintentional behaviors, such as drowning, falls, car accidents, etc., but also include intentional behavior, such as assault, suicide, etc. This may show how important it is to address mental health problems as people adapt to the changing planet. Another study found that suicide rates in the U.S. and Mexico increase as the average monthly temperature increases.
“The study highlights how important mental health is, not only as a hidden burden of climate change but also for environmental exposure as a whole,” Robbie Parks, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University and one of the study’s lead authors, told The Verge. He thinks more research should be done on mental health and rising temperatures.
The reasons behind suicides and other types of injury events that jump during temperature fluctuations are not clear. Drowning may be linked to more people choosing to cool down by swimming. The researchers also point out that people tend to get excited and drink more alcohol in hot weather, which may be the leading cause of car accident deaths and personal attacks. Other studies have also shown that high temperatures are associated with violent crime. On the other hand, cold weather can lead to more falls — a new study has found that warmer weather can actually reduce the risk of falls and injuries in older people.
The researchers found that traffic injuries, including car accidents, accounted for the majority of deaths at abnormal temperatures, followed by suicide, but the largest increase in drowning deaths was about 14 percent. In addition, the study found that young people between the ages of 15 and 34 were the main group of people who died, while California, Texas and Florida would be the worst affected.
In future studies, the researchers say, other factors, such as changes in rainfall, will need to be taken into account when the effects of climate change may lead to more injury events. In addition, they called for more information on how specific communities are affected by factors such as location, race and income.