Longer-Term Outdoor Temperatures and Health Effects: a Review

Environmental Epidemiology (F Laden and J Hart, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Environmental Epidemiology


Purpose of Review

Our goal was to assess current literature and knowledge on associations between characteristics (mean, variability, extremes) of ambient temperatures and human health. We were motivated by concerns that climate change, which operates on a time frame of decades or longer, may influence not only shorter-term associations between weather and health (daily/weekly) but also have enduring implications for population health. We reviewed papers published between 2010 and 2017 on the health effects of longer-term (3 weeks to years) exposures to ambient temperature. We sought to answer: “What health outcomes have been associated with longer-term exposures?” We included studies on a diverse range of health outcomes, with the exception of vector-borne diseases such as malaria. Longer-term exposures were considered to be exposures to annual and seasonal temperatures and temperature variability.

Recent Findings

We found 26 papers meeting inclusion criteria, which addressed mortality, morbidity, respiratory disease, obesity, suicide, infectious diseases, and allergies among various age groups. In general, most studies found associations between longer-term temperature metrics and health outcomes. Effects varied by population subgroup. For example, associations with suicide differed by sex and underlying chronic illness modified effects of heat on mortality among the elderly.


We found that regional and local temperatures, and changing conditions in weather due to climate change, were associated with a diversity of health outcomes through multiple mechanisms. Future research should focus on evidence for particular mechanistic pathways in order to inform adaptation responses to climate change.


Temperature Review Epidemiology Climate change 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Antonella Zanobetti reports grants from National Institutes of Health NIH/NIEHS and grants from US EPA, during the conduct of the study. Marie S. O’Neill report grants from National Science Foundation, and grants from National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, during the conduct of the study.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental HealthHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Epidemiology and Environmental Health SciencesUniversity of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA

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