Beware the chilly killer

21 May 2015

Paying close attention to your health as winter approaches could be a matter of life or death,University of Queensland research shows.

A multi-country study published in The Lancet has found that temperature is responsible a significant number of deaths and that most of this mortality burden is due to colder days.

Research Fellow Dr Yuming Guo, from UQ’s School of Public Health, said the study found that cold temperatures were related to more deaths than hot temperatures.

“During the winter months people should be mindful to cover up and protect themselves from the cold weather,” he said.

“In parts of Australia people might feel this is unnecessary, but you should always be prepared for a sudden drop in temperature during the winter months.”

Dr Guo said the study was based on the largest data set ever collected for evaluating temperature-health associations, including more than 74 million deaths in 13 countries.

Data was collected for 384 locations in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, UK, and the USA, totalling 74,225,200 deaths between 1985 and 2012.

Dr Guo said the analysis of data provided evidence on the temperature-related mortality risk in a wide range of climates and populations with different demographic, socio-economic and infrastructural characteristics.

“This evidence has important implications for the planning of public health interventions to minimise the health consequences of adverse temperatures, and for predicting the future impact under climate change scenarios,” he said.

“While a few studies have estimated premature deaths attributable to either heat or cold in selected countries, this is the first to offer a systematic assessment of the whole temperature range in populations exposed to different climates.”

The study, Mortality risk attributable to high and low ambient temperature: a multi-country observational study, was done in conjunction with researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

MEDIA: Dr Yuming Guo,, (+617) 3346 5265, (+61) 412 545 867