Effects of sudden air pressure changes on hospital admissions for cardiovascular diseases in Prague, 1994–2009

Abstract

Sudden weather changes have long been thought to be associated with negative impacts on human health, but relatively few studies have attempted to quantify these relationships. We use large 6-h changes in atmospheric pressure as a proxy for sudden weather changes and evaluate their association with hospital admissions for cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Winter and summer seasons and positive and negative pressure changes are analysed separately, using data for the city of Prague (population 1.2 million) over a 16-year period (1994–2009). We found that sudden pressure drops in winter are associated with significant rise in hospital admissions. Increased CVD morbidity was observed neither for pressure drops in summer nor pressure increases in any season. Analysis of synoptic weather maps shows that large pressure drops in winter are associated with strong zonal flow and rapidly moving low-pressure systems with centres over northern Europe and atmospheric fronts affecting western and central Europe. Analysis of links between passages of strong atmospheric fronts and hospital admissions, however, shows that the links disappear if weather changes are characterised by frontal passages. Sudden pressure drops in winter are associated also with significant excess CVD mortality. As climate models project strengthening of zonal circulation in winter and increased frequency of windstorms, the negative effects of such weather phenomena and their possible changes in a warmer climate of the twenty-first century need to be better understood, particularly as their importance in inducing excess morbidity and mortality in winter may increase compared to cold spells.

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Acknowledgements

The data were provided by the Institute of Health Information and Statistics, the Czech Statistical Office, and the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute. Our special thanks for assistance with the data preparation and processing are due to B. Kříž and J. Kynčl, National Institute of Public Health, and H. Davídkovová, Institute of Atmospheric Physics AS CR. The study was supported by the Czech Science Foundation, project P209/11/1985.

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Correspondence to Eva Plavcová.

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Plavcová, E., Kyselý, J. Effects of sudden air pressure changes on hospital admissions for cardiovascular diseases in Prague, 1994–2009. Int J Biometeorol 58, 1327–1337 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-013-0735-y

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Keywords

  • Weather
  • Pressure change
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Morbidity
  • Mortality
  • Central Europe