Leaving the cold Northeast states for the warmer South and West may mean a longer life.
New research on the effects of extreme temperatures found that 5,400 deaths a year are delayed by getting away from cold temperatures. The life expectancy for people whose death were delayed by moving increased by an average of 9.1 years, according to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Economists Olivier Deschenes at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Enrico Moretti at the University of California, Berkeley, matched data on deaths from 1972 to 1988 to weather conditions on the day of death and county of residence.
Extreme temperatures — both hot and cold — generally tends to spur a spike in deaths. That’s evident from the increased public attention from heat-related deaths, which hit elderly people especially hard. But deaths actually decline significantly in the days that follow, suggesting that the extreme heat hastened the deaths of people who were already weak and would’ve died anyway. “As a consequence, there is virtually no lasting impact of heat waves on mortality,” the researchers write.
Extreme cold weather leads to an immediate spike in deaths as well, but it isn’t offset by a decline in deaths afterward. One extremely cold day in a 30-day window increases mortality by 10%, the study found, mostly the result of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases (leading to hypothermia, pneumonia and other heart or lung problems). People in low-income areas are hit especially hard, as are infants and older adults.
Overall, cold weather accounts for 1.3% of total U.S. deaths a year, a larger impact than homicide, leukemia or chronic liver disease. The researchers note that Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland and Chicago are affected the most; as many as 3.3% of their deaths could be delayed by changing exposure to cold days.
The research could help explain the increase in life expectancy over the last three decades, about a quarter of a year per calendar year. The population shift from cold states to warm states, the study found, accounts for 8% to 15% of the gains in longevity.
Who knew? Maybe the big 3 will solve their pension issues by requiring retirees to live in Michigan to get a pension....