The increasing severity and intensity of heatwaves is driving a rise in the number of Australians hospitalized due to extreme weather, a government report has found.
According to the report, which was published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) on Thursday, the number of Australians admitted to hospital for injuries associated with extreme weather events such as heatwaves, bushfires and storms has grown over the last decade.
It found that between 2012 and 2022 extreme heat sent more Australians to hospital than any other environmental condition.
Between 2012 and 2022 there were 9,119 hospitalizations for injury in Australia directly attributable to extreme weather and, between 2011 and 2021, there were 677 deaths.
“Evidence has shown that over the past three decades, there has been an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, such as extreme heat, bushfires, extreme cold, rain and storm-related events,” AIHW researcher Heather Swanston said in a media release.
“We are seeing this reflected in hospitalizations and deaths.”
The report found that hospitalizations spiked every three years and gradually increased from 1,027 in 2013-14 to 1,033 in 2016-17 and 1,108 in 2019-20.
Exposure to excessive natural heat was the most common cause of hospitalization in all states and territories except Tasmania, the report said.
Extreme cold accounted for less than 10 percent of injury hospitalizations in the 10-year period analyzed but more than 35 percent of deaths.
The report said that bushfire-related injuries increased during years with an El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean, which is associated with hotter and drier weather in Australia.
The Bureau of Meteorology in September declared an El Nino event is underway for the first time since 2018-19.