Factors associated with older adults' perception of health risks of hot and cold weather event exposure: A scoping review

Priyanjali Ratwatte*, Helena Wehling, Sari Kovats, Owen Landeg, Dale Weston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Hot and cold weather events are increasingly becoming a global burden resulting in premature and preventable morbidity and mortality, particularly in vulnerable groups such as older people and people with chronic health conditions. However, risk perception regarding weather is generally poor among vulnerable groups which often acts as a barrier to the uptake of critical health-protective behaviours. A more cohesive understanding of determinants of risk perception is needed to inform public health risk communication and behaviour change interventions that promote protective health behaviours. This scoping literature review aimed to understand factors influencing perception of personal health risks in vulnerable groups as a result of exposure to hot and cold weather events. Methods: A five-stage scoping review framework was followed. Searches were run across Medline, PsychInfo, Web of Science and EMBASE. Papers were included if they provided rationale for risk perceptions in vulnerable groups in indoor/domestic environments and focussed on samples from OECD countries. Results: In total, 13 out of 15,554 papers met the full inclusion criteria. The majority of papers focused on hot weather events: one study exclusively examined cold weather events and one study addressed both cold and hot weather events. Included papers focused on older adults aged 65+ years. The papers identified eight factors that were associated with older adults' personal health risk perception of hot and cold weather events: (1) Knowledge of the relationship between hot/cold weather and health risks, (2) presence of comorbidities, (3) age and self-identity, (4) perceived weather severity, (5) Beliefs associated with regional climate, (6) past experience with weather, (7) misconceptions of effectiveness of protective behaviours, and (8) external locus of control. Conclusions: Future research should explore risk communication methods by implementing the identified risk perception determinants from this review into health protection interventions targeting older adults. Further understanding is needed regarding risk perceptions in non-elderly vulnerable groups, for examples individuals with chronic diseases or disabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number939859
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the following NIHR Health Protection Research Units (HPRU) in partnership with UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA): the Behavioural Science and Evaluation HPRU at University of Bristol (HPRU BSE), (Grant number: NIHR200877) and the Environmental Change and Health HPRU at London School of Health and Tropical Medicine and University College London (HPRU ECH), (Grant number: NIHR200909). The funding source had no role in review design, the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, the writing of the article or the decision to submit it for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Ratwatte, Wehling, Kovats, Landeg and Weston.


  • cold snaps
  • health protection
  • heatwaves
  • older adults
  • public health
  • risk perception


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