Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

The incidence of the sudden infant death syndrome in relation to climate


Incidences of the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) for eight metropolitan communities in U.S.A. are shown to correlate strongly with the mean percentages of cold-wet weather experienced by these places in the seven months centred on January. For white infants aged 4–51 weeks at death, the incidence varies from about one per thousand live births in the more favourable climates to around two per thousand under the less favourable conditions of northwest U.S.A. Incidences are higher for the nonwhite infants but exhibit a similar variation with climate.

To be able to extend the study to other countries for which cold-wet weather percentages are not available, a surrogate cold-wet weather index is developed, based on mean cold-season temperature, insolation and number of days with precipitation.

Australian and British SIDS incidences related to the surrogate cold-wet weather index exhibit a variation parallel to that for U.S.A. but somewhat higher over the whole range.

The incidences used in this study are from the more extensive investigations in which diagnosis was made as a result of thorough postmortem examination.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. ASHER, M. I. (1975): Cot deaths in Southland, N.Z. Med. J., 82: 369–373.

  2. BEAL, SUSAN M. (1978): Seasonal variation in sudden-infant-death syndrome, Lancet, 1: 1257.

  3. BECKWITH, J. B. (1970): Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, ed. Bergmann, Beckwith and Ray, p. 17. Seattle, University of Washington.

  4. BILHAM, E. G. (1938): The Climate of the British Isles, Macmillan and Co., London.

  5. DEACON, E. L. (1969): Physical processes near the surface of the Earth, Chap. 2 in Vol. 2 of World Survey of Climatology (ed. H. Flohn), Elsevier Pub. Co.

  6. DEACON, E. L., O'REILLY, M. J. J. and WILLIAMS, A. L. (1979): Some statistical and climatological aspects of the incidence of the sudden infant death syndrome, Aust. Paediatr. J., 15: 248–254.

  7. EMERY, J. L. (1976): Unexpected death in infancy, Recent Advances in Paediatrics, Vol. 5, 203–220 (ed. D. Hull), Churchill Livingstone.

  8. FEDRICK, J. (1973): Sudden unexpected death in infants in the Oxford Record Linkage Area, Br. J. Prev. Soc. Med. 27: 217–224.

  9. FITZGIBBONS, J. P., NORBREGA, F. T., LUDWIG, J., KURLAND, L. T. and HARRIS, L. E. (1969): Sudden, unexpected, and unexplained death in infants, Pediatrics, 43: 980–988.

  10. FOY, H. M. and RAY, C. G. (1973): Epidemiology of sudden infant death syndrome and lower respiratory tract disease in young children: a comparison, Amer. J. Hygiene, 98: 69–71.

  11. FRITZ, S. and MACDONALD, T. H. (1949): Average solar radiation in the United States, Heating and Ventilating, 46: 61–64.

  12. FROGGATT, P., LYNAS, MARGARET A. and MACKENZIE, G. (1971): Epidemiology of sudden unexpected death in infants (cot death) in Northern Ireland, Br. J. Prev. Soc. Med., 25: 119–134.

  13. HOPPENBROUWERS, T., CALUB, MARY, ARAKAWA, K. and HODGMAN, JOAN E. (1981): Seasonal relationship of sudden infant death syndrome and environmental pollutants. Amer. J. Epidemiol. 113: 623–635.

  14. KRAUS, J. F. and BORHANI, N. O. (1972): Post-neonatal sudden unexplained death in California: a cohort study. Amer. J. Epidemiol., 95: 497–510.

  15. MEIGS, P. and DE PERCIN, F. (1957): Frequency of cold-wet climatic conditions in the United States, Monthly Weather Rev., 85: 45–52.

  16. NAEYE, R. L. (1977): The sudden infant death syndrome, Arch. Pathol. Lab. Med., 101: 165–167.

  17. NELSON, K. E., GREENBERG, M. A., MUFSON, M. A. and MOSES, V. K. (1975): The sudden infant death syndrome and epidemic viral disease, Amer. J. Epidemiol., 101: 423–430.

  18. PETERSON, D. R. (1980): Evolution of the epidemiology of sudden infant death syndrome, Epidemiol. Rev., 2: 97–112.

  19. PETERSON, D. R. and CHINN, NINA M. (1977): Sudden infant death trends in six metropolitan communities, 1965–1974, Pediatrics, 60: 75–79.

  20. SPIERS, P. S., SCHLESSELMAN, J. J. and WRIGHT, S. G. (1974): Sudden infant death syndrome in the United States: a study of geographic and other variables. Amer. J. Epidemiol., 100: 380–389.

  21. STEELE, R., KRAUS, A. S. and LANGWORTH, JANE T. (1967): Sudden, unexpected death in infancy in Ontario, Canad. J. Public Health, 58: 359–371.

  22. STRIMER, R., ADELSON, L. and OSEASOHN, R. (1969): Epidemiologic features of 1,134 sudden, unexpected infant deaths. J. Amer. Med. Assn., 209: 1493–1497.

  23. SUTTON, R. N. P. and EMERY, J. L. (1966): Sudden death in infancy: a microbiological and epidemiological study, Arch. Dis. Child. 41: 674–677.

  24. TONKIN, SHIRLEY (1974): Epidemiology of SIDS in Auckland, New Zealand, in “SIDS 1974”, (ed. R. R. Robinson), Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, Toronto.

  25. UREN, E. C., WILLIAMS, A. L., JACK, I. and REES, J. W.(1980): Association of respiratory virus infections with sudden infant death syndrome, Med. J. Aust., May 3: 417–419.

  26. VALDéS-DAPENA, MARIE (1977): Sudden unexplained infant death 1970 through 1975, Pathology Annual, Pt. 1, (eds. Somers and Rosen): 117–145.

  27. VALDÉS-DAPENA, MARIE, BIRLE, L. J., McGOVERN, B. A., McGILLEN, J. F. and COLWELL, F. H., (1968): Sudden unexpected death in infancy: a statistical analysis of certain socioeconomic factors. J. Pediat, 73: 387–394.

  28. WILLIAMS, A. L. (1980): Tracheobronchitis and sudden infant death syndrome, Pathology, 12: 73–78.

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Deacon, E.L., Williams, A.L. The incidence of the sudden infant death syndrome in relation to climate. Int J Biometeorol 26, 207–218 (1982).

Download citation


  • Precipitation
  • Plant Physiology
  • Insolation
  • Live Birth
  • Favourable Condition