Table 1.1: Current estimates and future trends in chronic health conditions that interact with the health risks associated with climate change

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Health Conditions Current Estimates Future Trends Possible Influences of Climate Change
ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE Approximately 5 million Americans over 65 had Alzheimer's disease in 2013.1 Prevalence of Alzheimer’s is expected to triple to 13.8 million by 2050.1 Persons with cognitive impairments are vulnerable to extreme weather events that require evacuation or other emergency responses.
ASTHMA Average asthma prevalence in the U.S. was higher in children (9% in 2014)2 than in adults (7% in 2013).3 Since the 1980s, asthma prevalence increased, but rates of asthma deaths and hospital admissions declined.4,5 Stable incidence and increasing prevalence of asthma is projected in the U.S. in coming decades.


Asthma is exacerbated by changes in pollen season and allergenicity and in exposures to air pollutants affected by changes in temperature, humidity, and wind.6
CHRONIC OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE (COPD) In 2012, approximately 6.3% of adults had COPD. Deaths from chronic lung diseases increased by 50% from 1980 to 2010.7,8 Chronic respiratory diseases are the third leading cause of death and are expected to become some of the most costly illnesses in coming decades. 7 COPD patients are more sensitive than the general population to changes in ambient air quality associated with climate change.
DIABETES In 2012, approximately 9% of the total U.S. population had diabetes. Approximately 18,400 people younger than age 20 were newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2008–2009; an additional 5,000 were diagnosed with type 2.9 New diabetes cases are projected to increase from about 8 cases per 1,000 in 2008 to about 15 per 1,000 in 2050. If recent increases continue, prevalence is projected to increase to 33% of Americans by 2050.10 Diabetes increases sensitivity to heat stress; medication and dietary needs may increase vulnerability during and after extreme weather events.


CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the U.S.11 By 2030, approximately 41% of the U.S. population is projected to have some form of CVD.12 Cardiovascular disease increases sensitivity to heat stress.
MENTAL ILLNESS Depression is one of the most common types of mental illness, with approximately 7% of adults reporting a major episode in the past year. Lifetime prevalence is approximately twice as high for women as for men.13 Lifetime prevalence is more than 15% for anxiety disorders and nearly 4% for bipolar disorder.14 By 2050, the total number of U.S. adults with depressive disorder is projected to increase by 35%, from 33.9 million to 45.8 million, with those over age 65 having a 117% increase. 13 Mental illness may impair responses to extreme events; certain medications increase sensitivity to heat stress.
OBESITY In 2009–2010, approximately 35% of American adults were obese.15 In 2012, approximately 32% of youth (aged 2–19) were overweight or obese.16,17 By 2030, 51% of the U.S. population is expected to be obese. Projections suggest a 33% increase in obesity and a 130% increase in severe obesity.18 Obesity increases sensitivity to high ambient temperatures.
DISABILITY Approximately 18.7% of the U.S. population has a disability. In 2010, the percent of American adults with a disability was approximately 16.6% for those age 21–64 and 49.8% for persons 65 and older. 19 The number of older adults with activity limitations is expected to grow from 22 million in 2005 to 38 million in 2030.20 Persons with disabilities may find it hard to respond when evacuation is required and when there is no available means of transportation or easy exit from residences.


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  1. Akinbami, L. J., J. E. Moorman, C. Bailey, H. S. Zahran, M. King, C. A. Johnson, and X. Liu, 2012: Trends in Asthma Prevalence, Health Care Use, and Mortality in the United States, 2001–2010. NCHS Data Brief. No. 94, May 2012. Array, 8 pp., National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, MD. URL | Detail
  2. Brault, M. W., 2012: Americans With Disabilities: 2010. 23 pp., U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, D.C. URL | Detail
  3. Heo, M., C. F. Murphy, K. R. Fontaine, M. L. Bruce, and G. S. Alexopoulos, 2008: Population projection of US adults with lifetime experience of depressive disorder by age and sex from year 2005 to 2050. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 23, 1266-1270. doi:10.1002/gps.2061 | Detail
  4. Kosacz, N. M., and others, 2012: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among adults - United States, 2011. MMWR: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 61, 938-943. URL | Detail
  5. Luber, G., and others, 2014: Ch. 9: Human Health. Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, J.M. Melillo, Richmond, T. (T.C.), and Yohe, G.W., Eds., U.S. Global Change Research Program, 220-256. doi:10.7930/J0PN93H5 | Detail
  6. Moorman, J. E., L. J. Akinbami, C. M. Bailey, H. S. Zahran, M. E. King, C. A. Johnson, and X. Liu, 2012: National Surveillance of Asthma: United States, 2001-2010. National Center for Health Statistics. URL | Detail
  7. NCHS, 2015: Health, United States, 2014: With Special Feature on Adults Aged 55-64. 473 pp., National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, MD. URL | Detail
  8. Ogden, C. L., M. D. Carroll, B. K. Kit, and K. M. Flegal, 2014: Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 311, 806-814. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.732 | Detail