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The impact of heatwaves on mortality and emergency hospital admissions from non-external causes in Brisbane, Australia

Abstract

Objectives Heatwaves can have significant health consequences resulting in increased mortality and morbidity. However, their impact on people living in tropical/subtropical regions remains largely unknown. This study assessed the impact of heatwaves on mortality and emergency hospital admissions (EHAs) from non-external causes (NEC) in Brisbane, a subtropical city in Australia.

Methods We acquired daily data on weather, air pollution and EHAs for patients aged 15 years and over in Brisbane between January 1996 and December 2005, and on mortality between January 1996 and November 2004. A locally derived definition of heatwave (daily maximum ≥37°C for 2 or more consecutive days) was adopted. Case–crossover analyses were used to assess the impact of heatwaves on cause-specific mortality and EHAs.

Results During heatwaves, there was a statistically significant increase in NEC mortality (OR 1.46; 95% CI 1.21 to 1.77), cardiovascular mortality (OR 1.89; 95% CI 1.44 to 2.48), diabetes mortality in those aged 75+ (OR 9.96; 95% CI 1.02 to 96.85), NEC EHAs (OR 1.15; 95% CI 1.07 to 1.23) and EHAs from renal diseases (OR 1.41; 95% CI 1.09 to 1.83). The elderly were found to be particularly vulnerable to heatwaves (eg, for NEC EHAs, OR 1.24 for 65–74-year-olds and 1.39 for those aged 75+).

Conclusions Significant increases in NEC mortality and EHAs were observed during heatwaves in Brisbane where people are well accustomed to hot summer weather. The most vulnerable were the elderly and people with cardiovascular, renal or diabetic disease.

  • Climate change
  • environmental health
  • hot temperature
  • epidemiology
  • environment

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Footnotes

  • Funding This study was partly funded by the Australian Research Council (LP882699), the Queensland Department of Environment and Resources Management, Community Safety, Queensland Health and the Environmental Protection Agency. ST was supported by an NHMRC research fellowship (#553043). PA was partially supported by a Noel Stevenson Fellowship from the Queensland Emergency Medicine Research Foundation (QEMRF).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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