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Studying the impact of climate change on older adult health and well-being

Dr. Emerald Nguyen wearing a suit and glasses and she is smiling in her photo.
Emerald NGUYEN,
Division of Behavioral and Social Research (DBSR).

As our nation observes Earth Day this week, NIA recognizes that far too many people continue to struggle due to climate change and related weather conditions. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to better understand the science of changing climates and their impact on the health and well-being of older adults. The 2020 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change identified older adults as a vulnerable population experiencing excess morbidity and mortality associated with extreme weather, such as alarming heatwaves, widespread wildfires, and violent hurricanes. NIA behavioral and social research program priorities (PDF, 433K) include supporting research to investigate older adults’ health outcomes and their preparedness, adaptation, and resilience to climate change and extreme weather conditions.

Expanding research on older adult health affected by climate change

Research on older adult health and well-being affected by climate change builds on NIA’s established interest in disaster preparedness, our support for research institutions affected by disasters, and our partnerships with other federal agencies to support older adults in emergencies. NIA recently awarded six grants for projects in response to the Environmental Influences on Aging: Effects of Extreme Weather and Disaster Events on Aging Processes funding opportunity. NIA’s expanding interests in this area of research include but are not limited to:

  • Impacts of exposure to air pollution, heat, and wildfires, and other extreme weather events on health and well-being in midlife and later life
  • The impact of age-related change in affective, social, and cognitive factors on individual responses to extreme weather events
  • How individuals initiate and maintain the behavior changes needed for preparedness and adaptation to extreme weather events
  • The contribution of extreme weather events and related natural disasters to social structure and social adversity, and their effects on aging processes across the life course in studies of animals in their natural habitats
  • Impacts of extreme weather events on individuals with functional limitations or disabilities, persons living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, as well as caregivers/care partners
  • The preparedness of health care systems and care providers before and after extreme weather events, as well as reducing health care facilities’ and systems’ contribution to climate change
  • The impact of internal migration, displacement, or resettlement from extreme weather events on health in midlife and later life
  • Regional and cross-national variation in extreme weather and their disparate health impacts on midlife and older adult populations, particularly vulnerable communities

How to get involved

If you are interested in developing a research project focused on climate change connections to older adult health and well-being, we would be happy to discuss your ideas. Please check out the links in this post, keep an eye on our current funding opportunities, and, if you have questions, please contact me or leave a comment below!

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