Journal article

Perceived heat stress increases with population density in urban Philippines

12 Jul 2018

The world's population is increasingly urban with more than half the global population already living in cities. The urban population is particularly affected by increasing temperatures because of the urban heat island (UHI) effect. Increasing temperatures cause heat stress in people, even when not directly exposed to heat, since the outdoor meteorological conditions also affect conditions inside, particularly in non-air-conditioned environments. Heat stress harms people's health, can impair their well-being and productivity, and may cause substantial economic losses. In this study we investigate how people in urban areas across the Philippines are affected by heat, using data from 1161 responses obtained through an online survey. We found that almost all respondents (91%) are already experiencing heat stress quite severely and that the level of heat stress is correlated with population density. Controlling, in a multiple logit model, for variables commonly associated with heat stress, such as age, health, physical exertion and climate, we found that those least likely to be severely affected by heat live in areas with fewer than ~7,000 people per km2. Air-conditioning use at home relieved heat stress mostly for people in low density areas but not where population density was high. The results provide evidence for social impacts of increasing heat in urban areas, complementing understanding of well-known physical impacts such as the UHI effect.

Keywords: adaptation, air-conditioning, climate change impact, increasing temperatures, South East Asia, survey, urbanization

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