, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 31-35
Date: 12 Oct 2012

Is sudden death random or is it in the weather?

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It has been suggested that the weather may promote some types of death; this study sought to determine if types of death in the region around Adelaide, South Australia, occur in non-random clusters and in relationship to the weather. A Poisson model was used to determine if the occurrence of types of death were random. An exploratory analysis was performed for each death type to see if there was a relationship to weather variables using data supplied by the Bureau of Meteorology. Cases examined at Forensic Science South Australia from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2009 were reviewed. It was ascertained that cardiovascular deaths were distributed non-randomly; there was statistical evidence to suggest that deaths from ischemic heart disease, pulmonary embolus and drug toxicity had non-random occurrence. Maximum temperatures and increases in temperatures correlated with deaths from natural causes, cardiovascular disease, ischemic heart disease and pulmonary thromboembolus; lower hours of sunlight were statistically significant for deaths due to pulmonary thromboembolus. The distribution pattern of deaths resulting from motor vehicle collision did not fit the Poisson (random) model with variation through the week also being present. Non-random clusters of deaths do occur and weather events, such as increase in temperature, are associated with some types of death. However, analysis indicates that the weather is not responsible for all clustering. With regards to motor vehicle collision deaths temporal variation may be related to social factors, such as holiday periods. Further investigation may assist with health resource planning.