The Effects of Extreme Heat on Population Health in Australia

Numerous studies have associated high ambient temperatures with adverse health outcomes. Extreme environmental heat can trigger the onset of acute conditions as well as exacerbate a range of underlying illnesses. Due to stresses placed on the body’s thermoregulatory mechanisms, failure to adequately dissipate increased body heat can lead to heat-related illnesses ranging in severity from mild to life threatening. Australians are largely acclimatised to hot summers and regular heatwaves; however morbidity and mortality associated with extreme heat is a regular occurrence and may in the absence of adaptation, increase in a warming climate. This review extensively addresses the effect of extreme heat on population health in Australia, risk factors, and, in the context of international studies, discusses policy implications and planning options to limit future heat-related morbidity and mortality in Australia’s ageing population.