Irish hospital admissions due to hot weather projected to rise

ESRI analysis found increased hospitalisation on hot days, with circulatory and respiratory issues among most common

Emergency hospital admissions in the 2015-2019 period for temperature-affected diseases were 8.5 per cent higher on hot days. Photograph: Alan Betson

Irish hospital admissions for health conditions linked to temperature rise due to climate change are projected to increase by 12.2 per cent during hotter weather in coming decades, according to research by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

Climate change is already having direct and indirect impacts on Irish people’s health, the analysis published on Wednesday concludes.

Emergency hospital admissions in the 2015-2019 period for temperature-affected diseases were 8.5 per cent higher on hot days (22-25 degrees) compared with moderate temperature days (10-13 degrees) in Ireland.

The largest increases in hospitalisations on hot days were seen for circulatory, respiratory and infectious diseases – and among younger people (0-14 years).

READ SOME MORE

“On the hottest days where temperatures exceed 25 degrees, results showed potential evidence of adaptive behaviour, especially among older people, suggesting advance notice of very warm days can help people change their behaviour,” it adds.

With temperature increases a threat to population health associated with climate change in Ireland, the paper seeks for the first time to evaluate evidence of the link. Combining temperature data from Met Éireann with emergency inpatient hospitalisation data from the Hospital In-Patient Enquiry data set, it highlights how temperature rise significantly increases hospitalisations for temperature-related health conditions.

The report also uses Met Éireann data and simulations performed by the Irish Centre for High-End Computing to develop Irish climate projections on temperatures and their impact.

Mean annual temperatures are projected to increase by 1-1.6 degrees by 2041-2060 compared with 1981-2000, under the most likely scenario. In this case, “hospital admissions for health conditions linked with temperature are projected to increase by 12.2 per cent during hotter weather”, it concludes.

Illustrating the benefits of climate mitigation actions, excess mortality is projected to be 483 deaths a year under the most likely climate scenario. Other research estimates, under the most pessimistic scenario climate change, could lead to 1,400 additional deaths annually in Ireland by the end of this century.

“Even in moderate climates such as Ireland, we find evidence that higher temperatures increase hospitalisation rates significantly,” said Dr Anne Nolan of the ESRI.

“These results emphasise the need for policymakers in moderate climate countries including Ireland to implement adaptive measures and increase capacity to accommodate higher hospital demand from higher temperatures, especially during the summer months,” she added.

The research was funded by the Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society with support from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times