Author(s): Rocklv J, Forsberg B
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Abstract The short-term effects of high temperatures are a serious concern in the context of climate change. In areas that today have mild climates the research activity has been rather limited, despite the fact that differences in temperature susceptibility will play a fundamental role in understanding the exposure, acclimatization, adaptation and health risks of a changing climate. In addition, many studies employ biometeorological indexes without careful investigation of the regional heterogeneity in the impact of relative humidity. We aimed to investigate the effects of summer temperature and relative humidity and regional differences in three regions of Sweden allowing for heterogeneity of the effect over the scale of summer temperature. To do so, we collected mortality data for ages 65+ from Stockholm, Göteborg and Skåne from the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare and the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute for the years 1998 through 2005. In Stockholm and Skåne on average 22 deaths per day occurred, while in Göteborg the mean frequency of daily deaths was 10. We fitted time-series regression models to estimate relative risks of high ambient temperatures on daily mortality using smooth functions to control for confounders, and estimated non-linear effects of exposure while allowing for auto-regressive correlation of observations within summers. The effect of temperature on mortality was found distributed over the same or following day, with statistically significant cumulative combined relative risk of about 5.1\% (CI = 0.3, 10.1) per degrees C above the 90th percentile of summer temperature. The effect of high relative humidity was statistically significant in only one of the regions, as was the effect of relative humidity (above 80th percentile) and temperature (above 90th percentile). In the southernmost region studied there appeared to be a significant increase in mortality with decreasing low summer temperatures that was not apparent in the two more northerly situated regions. The effects of warm temperatures on the elderly population in Sweden are rather strong and consistent across different regions after adjustment for mortality displacement. The impact of relative humidity appears to be different in regions, and may be a more important predictor of mortality in some areas.
This article was published in Int J Environ Res Public Health
and referenced in Journal of Geography & Natural Disasters