Heat raises hospitalization risk for multimorbidity patients

Multimorbidity patients face higher emergency hospitalizations during hot weather.

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Griffith University‘s research, published in eBioMedicine, underscores this: the risk of hospitalization increases with the number of chronic conditions, particularly during hot weather. Australians, habitual to long, hot summers, must be aware of this heightened risk for patients with multimorbidity.

The 65-and-older population, who are burdened with two or more chronic diseases (multimorbidity), is at a heightened risk during hot weather. Since more than half of the global population aged 60 and above have multimorbidity, hospitals must include this specific heat-vulnerable group in their early warning systems.

People with chronic diseases are considered heat-vulnerable. However, Dr. Xu’s research found that those with multimorbidity (two or more chronic diseases) are not classified as a distinct and vulnerable subgroup. 

Over two million emergency hospitalizations were recorded during the study period, and when the mean temperature rose, hospitalization odds increased notably for patients with multimorbidity. This stark reality underscores the immediate need to pay attention to this specific group in heat-health action plans.

Elevated temperatures can strain stressed human body systems, including the cardiovascular and kidneys. Patients with multimorbidity (multiple chronic diseases) need more comprehensive medical management than those with only one or no chronic disease.

Dr. Xu emphasized the detrimental effects of hot weather on health and well-being. Additionally, Dr. Shannon Rutherford co-leads Griffith University’s Ethos project, an extreme heat warning system for older Queenslanders.

Dr Shannon Rutherford, a co-author of this paper and co-leader of this study, said , “This new study feeds into the work Ethos has underway, which aims to provide in-home solutions to allow older people and their carers to monitor heat exposure, identify heat risks in their home, and respond to those risks using accessible cooling strategies.”

Journal reference:

  1. Zhiwei Xu, Weizhuo Yi, et al., Multimorbidity and emergency hospitalizations during hot weather. eBioMedicine. DOI:10.1016/j.ebiom.2024.105148.

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