April 14, 2024

Risk of Death During Heat Waves in Brazil Linked to Socioeconomic Factors

Study reveals that heat waves in Brazil are disproportionately affecting individuals who are female, elderly, Black, Brown, or have lower educational levels. The research, conducted by Djacinto Monteiro dos Santos and colleagues from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, highlights the socioeconomic inequalities that are further exacerbated by heat waves. The study, published in PLOS ONE, emphasizes the urgent need for attention to these vulnerable populations during extreme weather events.

With climate change progressing, the frequency and intensity of heat waves are on the rise globally, including in Brazil. Heat waves can significantly increase the risk of death from existing chronic conditions, such as heart disease and pneumonia. Previous studies have demonstrated the correlation between heat waves and increased mortality rates in Brazil. However, few have examined the role of socioeconomic and demographic factors in these heat-related deaths within the country.

To address this gap, Monteiro dos Santos and his team analyzed death rates during heat waves in 14 major urban areas of Brazil between 2000 and 2018. These cities represented more than one-third of the country’s total population. Their findings further support previous research, indicating a rise in heat waves from zero to three per year in the 1970s to three to 11 per year in the 2010s.

During the period analyzed, a staggering 48,075 deaths were attributed to heat waves in Brazil. The leading causes of death among these cases were circulatory diseases, respiratory diseases, and cancer. The study also revealed significant regional variations in heat wave-related mortality rates. These disparities were linked to existing socioeconomic and health inequalities, such as life expectancy, between different regions within the country.

Furthermore, the research found that certain demographic groups were more vulnerable to heat wave-related deaths. Women, the elderly, Black and Brown individuals, and those with lower educational levels faced higher risks. This alarming disparity underscores how climate change is exacerbating existing socioeconomic gaps in Brazil.

The study also shed light on the shortcomings of event-based surveillance analysis, a technique used to identify emerging signals of disasters through social media and other sources. The researchers discovered that this method would have been inadequate in predicting the high rates of heat wave-related deaths in Brazil. Consequently, extreme heat waves are often overlooked as neglected disasters within the country.

These findings have significant implications for future efforts to mitigate mortality rates during heat waves in Brazil. The researchers suggest that further research should extend the study period, incorporate additional socioeconomic indicators, and utilize data from multiple weather stations in each urban area. By addressing these limitations, future studies can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the impact of heat waves on vulnerable populations.

In conclusion, heat waves in Brazil are exacerbating existing socioeconomic inequalities, with vulnerable populations facing a higher risk of death. Urgent action is needed to address these disparities and minimize the impact of extreme weather events on marginalized communities.

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1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it