Current Environmental Health Reports

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 296–305 | Cite as

The Urban Heat Island: Implications for Health in a Changing Environment

  • Clare HeavisideEmail author
  • Helen Macintyre
  • Sotiris Vardoulakis
Built Environment and Health (MJ Nieuwenhuijsen and AJ de Nazelle, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Built Environment and Health


Purpose of Review

The Urban Heat Island (UHI) is a well-studied phenomenon, whereby urban areas are generally warmer than surrounding suburban and rural areas. The most direct effect on health from the UHI is due to heat risk, which is exacerbated in urban areas, particularly during heat waves. However, there may be health benefits from warming during colder months. This review highlights recent attempts to quantitatively estimate the health impacts of the UHI and estimations of the health benefits of UHI mitigation measures.

Recent Findings

Climate change, increasing urbanisation and an ageing population in much of the world, is likely to increase the risks to health from the UHI, particularly from heat exposure. Studies have shown increased health risks in urban populations compared with rural or suburban populations in hot weather and a disproportionate impact on more vulnerable social groups. Estimations of the impacts of various mitigation techniques suggest that a range of measures could reduce health impacts from heat and bring other benefits to health and wellbeing.


The impact of the UHI on heat-related health is significant, although often overlooked, particularly when considering future impacts associated with climate change. Multiple factors should be considered when designing mitigation measures in urban environments in order to maximise health benefits and avoid unintended negative effects.


Temperature Heat Built environment Mitigation Adaptation Mortality Cities 



The research was partly funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Environmental Change and Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in partnership with Public Health England (PHE) and in collaboration with the University of Exeter, University College London and the Met Office. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, the Department of Health or Public Health England.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Clare Heaviside, Helen Macintyre and Sotiris Vardoulakis declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clare Heaviside
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Helen Macintyre
    • 1
  • Sotiris Vardoulakis
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Environmental Change DepartmentPublic Health EnglandOxonUK
  2. 2.School of Geography Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  3. 3.Department of Social and Environmental Health ResearchLondon School of Hygiene and Tropical MedicineLondonUK
  4. 4.Institute of Occupational MedicineEdinburghUK

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