As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events researchers and public health officials must work towards understanding the causes and outcomes of heat-related morbidity and mortality. While there have been many studies on both heatrelated illness (HRI), there are fewer on heat-related morbidity than on heatrelated mortality.
To identify individual and environmental risk factors for hospitalizations and document patterns of household cooling.
We performed a pooled cross-sectional analysis of secondary U.S. data, the Nationwide Inpatient Sample. Risk ratios were calculated from multivariable models to identify risk factors for hospitalizations. Hierarchical modeling was also employed to identify relationships between individual and hospital level predictors of hospitalizations. Patterns of air conditioning use were analyzed among the vulnerable populations identified.
Hospitalizations due to HRI increased over the study period compared to all other hospitalizations. Populations at elevated risk for HRI hospitalization were blacks, males and all age groups above the age of 40. Those living in zip-codes in the lowest income quartile and the uninsured were also at an increased risk. Hospitalizations for HRI in rural and small urban clusters were elevated, compared to urban areas.
Risk factors for HRI include age greater than 40, male gender and hospitalization in rural areas or small urban clusters. Our analysis also revealed an increasing pattern of HRI hospitalizations over time and decreased association between common comorbidities and heat illnesses which may be indicative of underreporting.