The Epidemiology and Geographic Patterns of Natural Disaster and Extreme Weather Mortality by Race and Ethnicity, United States, 1999-2018

Public Health Rep. 2022 Nov-Dec;137(6):1118-1125. doi: 10.1177/00333549211047235. Epub 2021 Oct 22.


Objectives: The adverse effects that racial and ethnic minority groups experience before, during, and after disaster events are of public health concern. The objective of this study was to examine disparities in the epidemiologic and geographic patterns of natural disaster and extreme weather mortality by race and ethnicity.

Methods: We used mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from January 1, 1999, through December 31, 2018. We defined natural disaster and extreme weather mortality based on International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision codes X30-X39. We calculated age-adjusted mortality rates by race, ethnicity, and hazard type, and we calculated age-adjusted mortality rate ratios by race, ethnicity, and state. We used geographic mapping to examine age-adjusted mortality rate ratios by race, ethnicity, and state.

Results: Natural disasters and extreme weather caused 27 335 deaths in the United States during 1999-2018. Although non-Hispanic White people represented 68% of total natural disaster and extreme weather mortality, the mortality rate per 100 000 population among non-Hispanic Black people was 1.87 times higher (0.71) and among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native people was 7.34 times higher (2.79) than among non-Hispanic White people (0.38). For all racial and ethnic groups, exposure to extreme heat and cold were the 2 greatest causes of natural disaster and extreme weather mortality. Racial and ethnic disparities in natural disaster and extreme weather mortality were highest in the South, Southwest, Mountain West, and Upper Midwest.

Conclusions: Racial and ethnic minority populations have a greater likelihood of mortality from natural disaster or extreme weather events than non-Hispanic White people. Our study strengthens the current knowledge base on these disparities and may inform and improve disaster preparedness and response efforts.

Keywords: United States; disparities; ethnicity; extreme weather; mortality; natural disasters; race.

MeSH terms

  • Ethnicity
  • Extreme Weather*
  • Humans
  • Minority Groups
  • Natural Disasters*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People