Climate change, including global warming, will cause poorer global health and rising numbers of environmental refugees. As neurological disorders account for a major share of morbidity and mortality worldwide, global warming is also destined to alter neurological practice; however, to what extent and by which mechanisms is unknown. We aimed to collect information about the effects of ambient temperatures and human migration on the epidemiology and clinical manifestations of neurological disorders.
We searched PubMed and Scopus from 01/2000 to 12/2020 for human studies addressing the influence of ambient temperatures and human migration on Alzheimer’s and non-Alzheimer’s dementia, epilepsy, headache/migraine, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and tick-borne encephalitis (a model disease for neuroinfections). The protocol was pre-registered with PROSPERO (2020 CRD42020147543).
Ninety-three studies met inclusion criteria, 84 of which reported on ambient temperatures and nine on migration. Overall, most temperature studies suggested a relationship between increasing temperatures and higher mortality and/or morbidity, whereas results were more ambiguous for migration studies. However, we were unable to identify a single adequately designed study addressing how global warming and human migration will change neurological practice. Still, extracted data indicated multiple ways by which these aspects might alter neurological morbidity and mortality soon.
Significant heterogeneity exists across studies with respect to methodology, outcome measures, confounders and study design, including lack of data from low-income countries, but the evidence so far suggests that climate change will affect the practice of all major neurological disorders in the near future. Adequately designed studies to address this issue are urgently needed, requiring concerted efforts from the entire neurological community.