Drought and the Risk of Hospital Admissions

While the occurrence, severity, and geographic extent of droughts are anticipated to increase under climate change, the health consequences of drought conditions are unknown. Professor Francesca Dominici recently took part in a study to estimate the risks of cardiovascular-related and respiratory-related hospital admission and mortality associated with drought conditions for the elderly population in western USA.

The study, funded by the Yale Institute of Biospheric Studies, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the US Environmental Protection Agency, found that drought conditions increased risk of mortality during high-severity worsening drought, but decreased the risk of respiratory admissions during full drought periods among adults aged 65 years and older. Although drought is a complex environmental exposure, studying its health impacts provides opportunity for preventive interventions, including communication of drought risks, so doctors and older patients predisposed to cardiovascular and respiratory disease have better awareness during extreme drought periods.