Exploring the association between heat and mortality in Switzerland between 1995 and 2013

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Designing effective public health strategies to prevent adverse health effect of hot weather is crucial in the context of global warming. In Switzerland, the 2003 heat have caused an estimated 7% increase in all-cause mortality. As a consequence, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health developed an information campaign to raise public awareness on heat threats.

For a better understanding on how hot weather affects daily mortality in Switzerland, we assessed the effect of heat on daily mortality in eight Swiss cities and population subgroups from 1995 to 2013 using different temperature metrics (daily mean (Tmean), maximum (Tmax), minimum (Tmin) and maximum apparent temperature (Tappmax)), and aimed to evaluate variations of the heat effect after 2003 (1995–2002 versus 2004–2013).

We applied conditional quasi-Poisson regression models with non-linear distributed lag functions to estimate temperature-mortality associations over all cities (1995–2013) and separately for two time periods (1995–2002, 2004–2013). Relative risks (RR) of daily mortality were estimated for increases in temperature from the median to the 98th percentile of the warm season temperature distribution.

Over the whole time period, significant temperature-mortality relationships were found for all temperature indicators (RR (95% confidence interval): Tappmax: 1.12 (1.05; 1.18); Tmax: 1.15 (1.08–1.22); Tmean: 1.16 (1.09–1.23); Tmin 1.23 (1.15–1.32)). Mortality risks were higher at the beginning of the summer, especially for Tmin. In the more recent time period, we observed a non-significant reduction in the effect of high temperatures on mortality, with the age group > 74 years remaining the population at highest risk.

High temperatures continue to be a considerable risk factor for human health in Switzerland after 2003. More effective public health measures targeting the elderly should be promoted with increased attention to the first heat events in summer and considering both high day-time and night-time temperatures.

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