Rising environmental temperatures represent a major threat to human health. The activation of heat advisories using evidence-based thresholds for high-risk outdoor ambient temperatures have been shown to be an effective strategy to save lives during hot weather. However, although the relationship between weather and human health has been widely defined by outdoor temperature, corresponding increases in indoor temperature during heat events can also be harmful to health especially in vulnerable populations. In this review, we discuss our current understanding of the relationship between outdoor temperature and human health and examine how human health can also be adversely influenced by high indoor temperatures during heat events. Our assessment of the existing literature revealed a high degree of variability in what can be considered an acceptable indoor temperature because there are differences in how different groups of people may respond physiologically and behaviorally to the same living environment. Finally, we demonstrate that both non-physiological (e.g., geographical location, urban density, building design) and physiological (e.g., sex, age, fitness, state of health) factors must be considered when defining an indoor temperature threshold for preserving human health in a warming global climate.
Keywords: Climate change; air conditioning; chronic disease; elderly; extreme heat events; heat stress; heat-related mortality; overheating; sleep; urban heat island.