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Heat waves in India are more deadly than you think ‒ and they are likely to get deadlier

Underreporting heat-related deaths is inhibiting the country's ability to adopt early-warning systems.

News reports have put the number of deaths last week in the heat wave sweeping parts of India at more than 500.

The number sounds alarming but is most likely an underestimate. Research shows that India is underreporting heat mortality, which in turn is inhibiting adaptive policies like early warning systems and better public health preparedness.

For one, the government counts only death by heat stroke and heat exhaustion as heat wave deaths. The narrow definition does not account for the way “heat exposure stresses underlying physiological systems”, a study on heat mortality in Ahmedabad said. Heat exposure exacerbates respiratory diseases and renal failure that might not result in same-day deaths but could show up with a time lag of a few days.

The study found that mortality rates in the city of Ahmedabad were 43% higher in May 2010 when the city experienced a heat wave as compared to the same days in 2009 and 2011. An excess of 1,344 deaths occurred in May 2010, relative to the average for the years before and after.

The researchers accessed the day-wise death counts from Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. Since the cause of the deaths was not documented by officials, it could be argued that the excess deaths in May 2010 may not necessarily be related to the heat. However, the researchers checked the government's epidemic surveillance system to rule out any outbreaks that could have contributed to an increase in mortality rates in 2010 – which implies that, all things the same, more people die in conditions of extreme heat.

The bad news is that heat waves are likely to intensify in the future, according to climate change researchers. Like the rest of the world, over the last century, India has turned hotter, with temperatures rising in the range of 0.8 to 1°C, with an increasing number of hot days.

"The heat waves are projected to be more intense, have longer durations and occur at a higher frequency and earlier in the year," said a research paper published in April 2015. The paper projects future heat waves in India based on multiple climate models. It finds that large parts of southern India and the East and West coasts, which are presently unaffected by severe heat waves, could be severely affected after 2070. This could lead to increased mortality.

The researchers draw attention to the fact that the Indian government does not consider heat waves as a serious risk to human health and heat hazards are not counted among the priorities of its disaster management plan.

"Our results suggest the necessity of adaptation policies to address the adverse effects of heat wave hazards," the paper states. "Although there are limitations in the present approach, our results are the first step in alerting policy makers to plan responses to more intense and persistent heat waves."

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India, UK and the US agree that this one factor is the biggest contributor to a fulfilled life

Attitude can play a big role in helping us build a path to personal fulfilment.

“I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.”

— Walt Disney

Throughout our lives we’re told time and time again about the importance of having a good attitude, whether it be in school, on the cricket pitch or in the boardroom. A recent global study of nearly two million people further echoed this messaging. When asked to think of someone who is living fully and to cite the number one reason for that fulfilment, “attitude” stood out as a top driver across India, the US, the UK, and a dozen other countries.

The resounding support for the importance of attitude in life is clear. But, what exactly is a “good attitude”, how exactly does it impact us, and what can we do to cultivate it?

Source: Abbot Global Study
Source: Abbot Global Study

Perhaps, for all of us in India the example closest to heart is the evolution of the Indian cricket team and its performance in crucial tournaments. The recent team led by M S Dhoni has had the type of success that we never witnessed since India started playing international cricket in the 1930s. Most observers of cricket, both the audience and experts, agree that other than the larger pool of talent and intense competition, a crucial new element of the team’s success has been its attitude—the self-belief that they can win from impossible situations. The statistics too seem to back this impression, for example, M S Dhoni has been part of successful run chases, remaining not out till the end on 38 occasions, more than any other cricketer in the world.

As in cricket so in life, good attitude is crucial but not easy to define. It is certainly not simply the ability to look at the bright side. That neglects the fact that many situations bring with them inconvenient realities that need to be acknowledged and faced. A positive attitude, then, is all about a constructive outlook that takes into consideration the good and the bad but focuses on making the best of a situation.

Positive thinking can shield people from stress, allowing them to experience lower rates of depression. A positive attitude also improves the ability to cope with different situations and even contributes to longer lifespans.

While having a positive attitude may not come naturally to all of us, we can cultivate that spirit. There are systematic ways in which we can improve the way we react to situations. And simple exercises seem to have a measurable impact. For example:

· Express gratitude. Start your day by acknowledging and appreciating the good in your life. This morning exercise can help reorient your mind towards a constructive outlook for the entire day.

· Adjust body language. The body and mind are closely linked, and simple adjustments to body language can signal and invite positivity. Simple steps such as keeping your posture upright, making eye contact and leaning in during conversations to signal positive interest have a positive impact on you as well as those you interact with.

· Find meaning in what we do. It is important to give purpose to our actions, and it is equally important to believe that our actions are not futile. Finding the purpose in what we do, no matter how small the task, often energizes us towards doing the best we can.

· Surround yourself with positive people. Your friends do matter, and this is a truth as old as the hills. The ever popular ancient Indian treatise Panchatantra, a collection of stories dating back perhaps to the 1st century BC, offers advice on how to make and keep suitable friends. And that remains relevant even today.


In addition to these steps, there are numerous resources available to help people around the world adopt a positive attitude and lead a more fulfilled life. Abbott, a global healthcare company, is committed to helping people live the best life possible. Their website and newsletter feature life hacks for work or personal time like those listed below. These are great tools for those ready to lead a more fulfilled and meaningful life, starting today.

Source: Abbot Global Study
Source: Abbot Global Study

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.

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