MONDAY, Aug. 28, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- There has been a statistically significant increase in the incidence of heat-related illnesses during the last several decades in the United States, according to a study published online July 7 in the Journal of Climate Change and Health.
Thomas F. Osborne, M.D., from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Palo Alto Healthcare System in California, and colleagues used VA electronic health data (2002 through 2019) to examine associations between patient demographics and comorbidities with heat-related illness.
The researchers identified 33,114 cases of heat-related illness among 28,039 unique patients during the 18-year period. Over time, there was a significant increase in the rate of heat-related illness, which was diagnosed in all 50 states. Higher comorbidity burden was associated with a greater likelihood of heat-related illnesses. Homeless veterans had increased rates of heat-related illness in the first half of the assessment period and declining rates in the second half. A greater proportion of heat-related illnesses occurred among Black and American Indian/Alaska Native veterans.
"There has also been an increased number of heat-related diagnoses associated with existing health and demographic factors, and the increase over time did not strictly follow the expected geographic North-South climate trends," conclude the authors.