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Global Warming, Exercise, and Age: Effects Felt

Jul 14, 2015 01:44 PM EDT
Climate change and its effects on humans
Climate change may be having an effect on humans too, judging from a Harvard study.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

If warming temperatures affect moose and seabirds and even ticks, it follows that humans would feel effects as well. Or at least, researchers from Harvard's School of Public Health recently published research in Nature Climate Change showing that temperature variability may boost death rates in seniors.

"Temperature variability emerges as a key feature in the potential impacts of climate change. The take-home message: Unusual temperature is bad for people's health," said study author Liuhua Shi in the report. Shi is a graduate student in the department of environmental health at Harvard's School of Public Health.

The scientists analyzed Medicare statistics concerning 2.7 million people over 65 years of age in New England from 2000 to 2008, according to a release.

Thirty percent of the study pool died during the study, and researchers found that death rates increased with a significant rise in summer temperature. They also dropped when the winter average temperature went up significantly.
The analysts believe it may be hard for people to increase their exercise endurance when they're in temperatures to which they are not acclimated, the release said.

The study's limitations included not knowing the individuals' causes of death. It also found only a possible association between weather and death rates, not a direct result.

The researchers plan to do a national study to look at long-term effects of temperature on mortality in each time zone, says Shi in the report.

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