Drought linked with human health risks in US analysis
A new Yale-led study reveals a distinct connection between drought exposure and adverse human health among older adults.
In a retrospective study of health claims for 618 U.S. counties over 14 years, researchers found that severe drought conditions increased the risk of mortality among adults 65 or over.
Michelle Bell, Professor at Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and senior author of the study, noted, "These findings are critically important given that climate change is anticipated to increase the frequency and severity of droughts."
The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Harvard T.H.
They identified periods of periods of "non-drought," "full drought," and periods when droughts were "worsening."
According to their findings, respiratory admissions decreased by 1.99 percent during full drought periods.
But when drought escalated to periods of "high severity worsening" conditions, the researchers found, mortality risk increased by 1.55 percent.
Dry conditions also trigger more dust and particulate matter in the air.
While further research can examine these different factors, Berman said, the new findings provide an important basis.
"Since health risks appear to increase with drought severity, you have time to enact clinical interventions to help avoid some of these adverse health outcomes," he said.