elderly people on a beach - on in wheelchair

How does climate change affect the elderly, disabled, homeless and individuals with chronic disease? The risk is debatable. Some research suggests climate change is creating more and more risks for vulnerable people than ever.

The number of very hot days has been increasing in Australia since the 1990s and heatwave events are becoming more common. According to nurse Jennifer Wressell MACN, human adaptation has allowed us to cope with climate change's most radical effects in heat. We're successfully developing strategies to mitigate the effects it's had.

Our adaptive abilities are not equal, however. 

"Certain populations have limited ability to adapt to climate extremes; the elderly, disabled, homeless and individuals with chronic disease are all at risk. This leads to significantly increased health challenges for these populations during heatwaves and cold spells. In one of the most comprehensive studies exploring the impact of heat on illness, Harvard School of Public Health found that “extreme heat … put the elderly at 18% greater risk of being hospitalised for fluid and electrolyte disorders, 14% greater risk for renal failure, 10% greater risk for urinary tract infections and 6% greater risk for sepsis.” More recently, Lee and Guth identified significant relationships between temperature extremes and increased occurrence of subarachnoid haemorrhage."- Jennifer Wressell MACN 

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