Current issues in alcohol

August 2011

Professional

Heatwaves and the elderly

Volume 40, No.8, August 2011 Pages 637-640

Leigh Wilson

Deborah Black

Craig Veitch

Background

Heatwaves are increasing in frequency, intensity and duration, and are associated with an increase in mortality and morbidity, particularly in the very young and the very old. Concurrently, the Australian population is aging, with the prediction that by 2036 approximately 27% of Australians will be aged over 65 years.

Objective/s

This article reviews the evidence on heat related health risk and discusses the role of the general practitioner in reducing morbidity in older people as a result of heatwaves.

Discussion

Heatwaves are associated with increased mortality and morbidity in people aged over 65 years, and more so in those aged over 75 years. Older people are more vulnerable to the effects of extreme heat through a range of physiological and physical factors. As key providers of healthcare to older people, GPs play a crucial role in identifying those at risk and implementing strategies to minimise the risks of mortality and morbidity during periods of extreme heat.

Globally, heatwaves are increasing in frequency, intensity and duration, and are associated with an increase in mortality and morbidity.1 The most vulnerable to extreme heat are infants, those aged over 75 years, and the medically compromised and frail.2,3

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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