London suburbs

Seasonal health & ageing in urban populations

The SHARPER project investigated the seasonal health and climate change resilience of ageing and elderly urban populations, developing vulnerability indices for 3 large cities: London, New York and Shanghai.

The Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect occurs when heat is absorbed and released by buildings and other manmade surfaces in urban environments, resulting in higher temperatures in cities compared to their rural surroundings. The effect is more pronounced in highly built-up areas with a lack of green surfaces and trees. Exposure to extreme heat can have detrimental impacts on human health, especially amongst the elderly and the chronically ill. As our climate warms, these adverse health effects will be exacerbated.

We compiled satellite temperature data with information on social, environmental and economic factors that contribute to urban heat vulnerability, including population density, health, mobility and quality of housing. This allowed us to identify areas where the population is most at risk, and provide estimates of the resilience of ageing and elderly populations in each city at a high spatial resolution.

For London, the study found that the elderly in Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets are most at risk of heat-related illnesses during periods of hot weather, especially for those suffering from health and mobility issues, and / or living in poor quality housing.

We envisage the project outcomes will help architects, engineers, planners, urban designers, property developers, local authorities and policymakers to take into account the health, age and vulnerability of people, and aid the design, planning and management of climate-ready urban environments.

UCL IEDE was a leading academic partner in this 2-year collaborative research project. Led by Arup, the project involved academic and industry partners from UCL, King’s College London, Climate UK, HelpAge International and the Satellite Applications Catapult. UCL IEDE’s Dr Anna Mavrogianni and Prof Mike Davies’ contributions built on the outputs of the EPSRC-funded project LUCID, which studied London’s Urban Heat Island.

SHARPER project infographic for London

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