A Comparison of Hypothermic Deaths in South Australia and Sweden

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Abstract

Case files from Forensic Science South Australia and the Swedish National Forensic Database were reviewed over a 6-year period from 2006 to 2011 for cases where hypothermia either caused, or significantly contributed to, death. Data were analyzed for age, sex, time of year/season, place of discovery, circumstances of death, and underlying medical conditions. Despite the considerable demographic, geographic, and climatological differences, hypothermic deaths occurred at very similar rates in South Australia (3.9/100,000) and Sweden (3.3/100,000). Deaths from hypothermia in South Australia occurred predominantly indoors at home addresses, involving elderly females with multiple underlying illnesses and limited outside contacts. In contrast, Swedish hypothermic deaths generally occurred outdoors and involved middle-aged elderly males. These data show that hypothermia may be a risk in warmer climates particularly for elderly, socially isolated individuals.

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