US Climate and Health Alliance

Vulnerability to extreme heat and climate change: is ethnicity a factor?


Background With a warming climate, it is important to identify sub-populations at risk of harm during extreme heat. Several international studies have reported that individuals from ethnic minorities are at increased risk of heat-related illness, for reasons that are not often discussed.Objective The aim of this article is to investigate the underpinning reasons as to why ethnicity may be associated with susceptibility to extreme heat, and how this may be relevant to Australia’s population.Design Drawing upon literary sources, the authors provide commentary on this important, yet poorly understood area of heat research.Results Social and economic disparities, living conditions, language barriers, and occupational exposure are among the many factors contributing to heat-susceptibility among minority ethnic groups in the United States. However, there is a knowledge gap about socio-cultural influences on vulnerability in other countries.Conclusion More research needs to be undertaken to determine the effects of heat on tourists, migrants, and refugees who are confronted with a different climatic environment. Thorough epidemiological investigations of the association between ethnicity and heat-related health outcomes are required, and this could be assisted with better reporting of nationality data in health statistics. Climate change adaptation strategies in Australia and elsewhere need to be ethnically inclusive and cognisant of an upward trend in the proportion of the population who are migrants and refugees.

Resource Type
Peer-reviewed article
Alana Hansen Linda Bi Arthur Saniotis Monika Nitschke
Resource URL
Global Health Action
Journal Abbr.
Glob Health Action
Jul 29, 2013
Short Title
Vulnerability to extreme heat and climate change
Health and Human Impact
Heat illness/extreme temperature
Social determinants of health Vulnerable populations

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