Hot weather and heat extremes: health risks

Lancet. 2021 Aug 21;398(10301):698-708. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(21)01208-3.


Hot ambient conditions and associated heat stress can increase mortality and morbidity, as well as increase adverse pregnancy outcomes and negatively affect mental health. High heat stress can also reduce physical work capacity and motor-cognitive performances, with consequences for productivity, and increase the risk of occupational health problems. Almost half of the global population and more than 1 billion workers are exposed to high heat episodes and about a third of all exposed workers have negative health effects. However, excess deaths and many heat-related health risks are preventable, with appropriate heat action plans involving behavioural strategies and biophysical solutions. Extreme heat events are becoming permanent features of summer seasons worldwide, causing many excess deaths. Heat-related morbidity and mortality are projected to increase further as climate change progresses, with greater risk associated with higher degrees of global warming. Particularly in tropical regions, increased warming might mean that physiological limits related to heat tolerance (survival) will be reached regularly and more often in coming decades. Climate change is interacting with other trends, such as population growth and ageing, urbanisation, and socioeconomic development, that can either exacerbate or ameliorate heat-related hazards. Urban temperatures are further enhanced by anthropogenic heat from vehicular transport and heat waste from buildings. Although there is some evidence of adaptation to increasing temperatures in high-income countries, projections of a hotter future suggest that without investment in research and risk management actions, heat-related morbidity and mortality are likely to increase.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Climate Change*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Global Warming*
  • Heat Stress Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Heat Stress Disorders / etiology*
  • Heat Stress Disorders / mortality
  • Heat Stress Disorders / prevention & control
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Morbidity / trends
  • Mortality / trends
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Physiological Phenomena
  • Sports / physiology
  • Urbanization