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Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health 2005;38(3): 283-290.
The Impact of High Apparent Temperature on the Increase of Summertime Disease-related Mortality in Seoul: 1991-2000.
Gwang yong Choi, Jong nam Choi, Ho Jang Kwon
1Department of Geography, Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, USA. tribute@rci.rutgers.edu
2Department of Geography, Western Illinois University, USA.
3Department of Preventive Medicine, College of Medicine, Dankook University, Korea.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this paper was to examine the relationship between the summertime (June to August) heat index, which quantifies the bioclimatic apparent temperature in sultry weather, and the daily disease-related mortality in Seoul for the period from 1991 to 2000. METHODS: The daily maximum (or minimum) summertime heat indices, which show synergetic apparent temperatures, were calculated from the six hourly temperatures and real time humidity data for Seoul from 1991 to 2000. The disease-related daily mortality was extracted with respect to types of disease, age and sex, etc. and compared with the time series of the daily heat indices. RESULTS: The summertime mortality in 1994 exceeded the normal by 626 persons. Specifically, blood circulation-related and cancer-related mortalities increased in 1994 by 29.7% (224 persons) and 15.4% (107 persons), respectively, compared with those in 1993. Elderly persons, those above 65 years, were shown to be highly susceptible to strong heat waves, whereas the other age and sex-based groups showed no significant difference in mortality. In particular, a heat wave episode on the 22nd of July 2004 (> 45 degree C daily heat index) resulted in double the normal number of mortalities after a lag time of 3 days. Specifically, blood circulation-related mortalities, such as cerebral infraction, were predominant causes. Overall, a critical mortality threshold was reached when the heat index exceeded approximately 37 degrees C, which corresponds to human body temperature. A linear regression model based on the heat indices above 37 degrees C, with a 3 day lag time, accounted for 63% of the abnormally increased mortality (> or = +2 standard deviations). CONCLUSIONS: This study revealed that elderly persons, those over 65 years old, are more vulnerable to mortality due to abnormal heat waves in Seoul, Korea. When the daily maximum heat index exceeds approximately 37 degrees C, blood circulation-related mortality significantly increases. A linear regression model, with respect to lag-time, showed that the heat index based on a human model is a more dependable indicator for the prediction of hot weatherrelated mortality than the ambient air temperature.
Key words: Heat index; Heat waves; Mortality; Seoul
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