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Heat waves in Madrid 1986–1997: effects on the health of the elderly

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Objective: The objective of this paper is to analyse and quantify the effects exerted on summer mortality by extremes of heat, particularly among persons aged 65–74 and 75 years and over, groups in which mortality is higher. Methods: The study included the period from 1 January 1986 to 31 December 1997, for all people aged over 65 years resident in Madrid, based on mortality due to all causes except accidents (ICD-9 codes 1–799), and circulatory (390–459) and respiratory (460–487) causes. Meteorological variables analysed were: daily maximum temperature, daily minimum temperature and relative humidity. To control the effect of air pollution on mortality we considered the daily mean values of sulphur dioxide (SO2), total suspended particulate (TSP), nitric oxides (NOx), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and tropospheric ozone (O3). Univariate and multivariate ARIMA models were used. Box-Jenkins pre-whitening was performed. Results: The results yielded by this study indicate a mortality increase up to 28. 4% for every degree the temperature rises above 36.5 °C, with particular effect in women over the age of 75 years and circulatory-cause mortality. The first heat wave that leads to the greatest effects on mortality, due to the higher number of susceptible people and the duration of the heat wave, show an exponential growth in mortality. Furthermore, low relative humidity enhances the effects of high temperature, linking dryness to air pollutants, ozone in particular. Conclusions: Since a warmer climate is predicted in the future, the incidence of heat wave should increase, and more comprehensive measures, both medical and social, should be adopted to prevent the effects of extreme heat on the population, particularly the elderly.

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Correspondence to J. Díaz.

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Díaz, J., Jordán, A., García, R. et al. Heat waves in Madrid 1986–1997: effects on the health of the elderly. IAOEH 75, 163–170 (2002).

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