Purpose of review: Climate change will affect mortality associated with both ambient temperature and air pollution. Because older adults have elevated vulnerability to both non-optimal ambient temperature (heat and cold) and air pollution, population aging can amplify future population vulnerability to these stressors through increasing the number of vulnerable older adults. We aimed to review recent evidence on projections of temperature- or air pollution-related mortality burden (i.e., number of deaths) under combined climate change and population aging scenarios, with a focus on evaluating the role of population aging in assessing these health impacts of climate change. We included studies published between 2014 and 2019 with age-specific population projections.
Recent findings: We reviewed 16 temperature projection studies and 15 air pollution projection studies. Nine of the temperature studies and four of the air pollution studies took population aging into account by performing age-stratified analyses that utilized age-specific relationships between temperature or air pollution exposures and mortality (i.e., age-specific exposure-response functions (ERFs)). Population aging amplifies the projected mortality burden of temperature and air pollution under a warming climate. Compared with a constant population scenario, population aging scenarios lead to less reduction or even increases in cold-related mortality burden, resulting in substantial net increases in future overall (heat and cold) temperature-related mortality burden. There is strong evidence suggesting that to accurately assess the future temperature- and air pollution-related mortality burden of climate change, investigators need to account for the amplifying effect of population aging. Thus, all future studies should incorporate age-specific population size projections and age-specific ERFs into their analyses. These studies would benefit from refinement of age-specific ERF estimates.
Keywords: Air pollution; Climate change; Mortality; Population aging; Projection; Temperature.