Climate Change Could Cut Global Life Spans by Half a Year

By   |  January 19, 2024

By Dennis Thompson HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2024 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

FRIDAY, Jan. 19, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- The effects of climate change could be shaving half a year off your life, a new study warns.

Increases in temperature and rainfall -- and the public health problems that come with them -- are projected to decrease average human life expectancy by six months, researchers report in the Jan. 18 issue of the journal PLOS Climate.

"The global threat posed by climate change to the well-being of billions underscores the urgent need to address it as a public health crisis," said researcher Amit Roy, an associate professor of economics with the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology in Bangladesh.

Heat waves and flooding are a direct threat to human health, but climate change also can produce more subtle health effects, such as an increase in respiratory disease and mental illness, researchers said in background notes.

To deduce how climate change might affect lifespan, researchers evaluated average temperature, rainfall and life expectancy data for 191 countries from 1940 to 2020.

They calculated that a global temperature increase of 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) is associated with a decrease of about five months and one week in average human life expectancy.

A 10-point increase in a composite climate change index -- taking into account both temperature and rainfall -- is expected to decrease average life expectancy by six months, results show.

Women and people living in developing nations fare the worst as climate change occurs, researchers said.

Future studies of this sort should also gauge the impact of specific severe weather events, such as wildfires, tsunamis and floods. The effects of these events can’t be fully captured by analyzing temperature and rainfall alone, Roy said in a journal news release.

More information

The World Health Organization has more about the health effects of climate change.

SOURCE: PLOS Climate, news release, Jan. 18, 2024