Tropical cyclones linked to rise in U.S. deaths
Over the last three decades, tropical cyclones in the U.S. were associated with higher death rates in subsequent months, according to an NIEHS-funded study. This is the first study to evaluate cause-specific mortality risks from tropical cyclones in the entire U.S. population.
The study included data on deaths in U.S. counties that experienced at least one tropical cyclone between 1988 and 2018, as well as data from the Social Vulnerability Index, which combines 15 factors that weaken a community’s ability to respond to a disaster, such as poverty and lack of access to transportation. Researchers used a statistical model to calculate how death rates changed after tropical cyclones and hurricanes — a subset of the strongest tropical cyclones — compared with similar periods without these storms.
Residents of 1,206 counties experienced at least one tropical cyclone during the study. In the month following a cyclone, each additional cyclone day was associated with higher county-level death rates for several causes of death, including injuries; infectious and parasitic diseases; respiratory diseases; cardiovascular diseases; and neuropsychiatric conditions. For hurricanes, injury-related deaths increased by 33.4% in the month the storm hit.
Among the study population, the authors observed overall higher death rates in individuals aged 65 years or older, in injury-related deaths for females compared with males, and in the most socially vulnerable counties.
According to the authors, study results contribute to better understanding of how cyclones may affect deaths, providing a foundation for improving resilience to climate-related disasters and climate change.
Citation: Parks RM, Benavides J, Anderson GB, Nethery RC, Navas-Acien A, Dominici F, Ezzati M, Kioumourtzoglou MA. 2022. Association of tropical cyclones with county-level mortality in the US. JAMA 327(10):946–955.