Environmental Protection Agency: Climate Change Indicators - Heat-Related Deaths

This indicator presents data on deaths classified as “heat-related” in the United States.

This indicator shows the annual rate for deaths classified by medical professionals as “heat-related” in the United States based on death certificate records. Every death is recorded on a death certificate, where a medical professional identifies the main cause of death (also known as the underlying cause), along with other conditions that contributed to the death. These causes are classified using a set of standard codes. Dividing the annual number of deaths by the U.S. population in that year, then multiplying by one million, will result in the death rates (per million people) that this indicator shows.

Figure 1 shows heat-related death rates using two methods. One method shows deaths for which excessive natural heat was stated as the underlying cause of death from 1979 to 2014. The other data series shows deaths for which heat was listed as either the underlying cause or a contributing cause, based on a broader set of data that, at present, can only be evaluated back to 1999. For example, in a case where cardiovascular disease was determined to be the underlying cause of death, heat could be listed as a contributing factor because it can make the individual more susceptible to the effects of this disease. Because excessive heat events are associated with summer months, the 1999–2014 analysis was limited to May through September.

Figure 2 offers a closer look at cardiovascular disease deaths for which heat was recorded as a contributing cause. This graph includes deaths due to heart attacks, strokes, and other diseases related to the circulatory system. Figure 2 shows death rates for the overall population as well as two groups with a higher risk: people age 65 and older and non-Hispanic blacks. Like the “underlying and contributing causes” analysis in Figure 1, Figure 2 is restricted to the summer months, and it uses data that are available from 1999 to 2014.

Science Topics
Climate Change, Health & Medicine
Middle School
6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade

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