Cumulative exposure to extreme heat and trajectories of cognitive decline among older adults in the USA

Eun Young Choi, Haena Lee, Virginia W. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background The projected increase in extreme heat days is a growing public health concern. While exposure to extreme heat has been shown to negatively affect mortality and physical health, very little is known about its long-term consequences for late-life cognitive function. We examined whether extreme heat exposure is associated with cognitive decline among older adults and whether this association differs by race/ethnicity and neighbourhood socioeconomic status. Methods Data were drawn from seven waves of the Health and Retirement Study (2006-2018) merged with historical temperature data. We used growth curve models to assess the role of extreme heat exposure on trajectories of cognitive function among US adults aged 52 years and older. Results We found that high exposure to extreme heat was associated with faster cognitive decline for blacks and residents of poor neighbourhoods, but not for whites, Hispanics or residents of wealthier neighbourhoods. Conclusion Extreme heat exposure can disproportionately undermine cognitive health in later life for socially vulnerable populations. Our findings underscore the need for policy actions to identify and support high-risk communities for increasingly warming temperatures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)728-735
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2023



ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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