No shopping district nearby? You may be more at risk of dying in a heat wave


As a heat wave sweeps eastward through much of the United States, residents of the affected cities are bracing for the worst. A few words of advice: Protect your young, your elderly and your residents of bad shopping areas.

It’s true. People who live in areas without “inviting” businesses are more at risk of dying. A 2006 study published in the American Sociological Review looked at the 1995 heat wave in Chicago and found that mortality rates were higher in areas where businesses were not well tended and leaned toward the bar-and-liquor-store variety.

With fewer businesses that could coax the elderly and other at-risk residents out of their homes and into the safety of air-conditioning, death rates rise, the study authors found.


Heat waves don’t just mean a few days of discomfort; a paper published in February of this year in Environmental Health Perspectives showed that mortality rates increase 2.49% for every 1°Fahrenheit increase in heat wave intensity. On the bright side, heat waves that occur further into the summer appear to be less lethal -- death rates increased 2.65% in later summer, compared with 5.04% for the first heat wave of the summer. That, however, may just mean that the first onslaught victimizes the most at-risk folk.

Elderly or no, if you don’t have air-conditioning and are in an affected area, it might be time to check out the movie listings for a second-run film.

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