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Health impacts of weather types in Sweden – the context of climatic and demographic change

Research project This project investigates current and future impacts of weather on health at four locations in Sweden. Using the "Spatial Synoptic Classification" (specific combinations of temperature, humidity, etc.), associations between weather conditions and total and cause-specific hospitalisation and mortality are analysed. The future health burden of oppressive weather types will be studied based on different climate scenarios and aging processes.

This project takes an innovative approach to study present and future health burdens in Sweden arising from adverse weather conditions in an ageing society and changing climate. We lack understanding of health impacts of the combined weather components (temperature, humidity, wind) in Sweden. Research elsewhere has shown that morbidity and mortality increase under “oppressive conditions” – cold-dry, or hot-humid weather. Projected change in oppressive weather types will increase the future health burden. The Spatial Synoptic Classification (SSC) categorizes local daily weather into one of eight types based on multiple meteorological variables. We will use the SSC to study weather impacts on all-cause hospitalizations and mortality in adults at four locations in Sweden. We will also analyse impacts on mortality and hospitalization due to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Vulnerable populations (by age, gender, social status) will be identified. We will statistically assess current impacts using register data, and future health burden, based on climate change and ageing scenarios. Our research will increase knowledge about vulnerability to adverse weather conditions beyond heat and cold effects. Findings will show how the Swedish health care system can prepare for the future when the number of vulnerable people will likely grow. From the beginning of the project, we will communicate with relevant stakeholders in order to facilitate prevention and health service planning.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period

2018-01-01 2020-12-31

Funding

FORMAs, 2018-2020: 998,755 SEK/year

Research subject

Public health and community medicine

Project description

Many studies in Sweden and other countries have shown that both high and low temperature can contribute to increased morbidity and mortality. During the winter, more people die or become ill during colder periods, and during the spring and summer heat waves can cause health problems. Older people but also children and sick persons are at greater risk of suffering from health problems as a result of adverse weather conditions. During this century, our population will age, while climate change will lead to more frequent heat waves. In the future, an increased number of people in Sweden can thus be adversely affected by heat.

However, more knowledge is needed regarding how temperature in combination with relative humidity, wind speed and cloudiness affect our health. From a public health perspective, we need an increased understanding of health effects as a result of such weather conditions.

The Spatial Synoptic Classification (SSC) categorizes the local daily weather into one of eight types based on several meteorological variables. We will use the SSC to explore health effects of weather types in four different Swedish municipalities (Stockholm, Umeå, Östersund, Malmö). We will use registry data (Linnaeus database from Umeå University) to investigate associations between weather types and mortality as well as hospitalisations. Analyses will be done both for the total population and for different groups, e.g. stratified by sex and age group.

As a result of climate change, Sweden can experience more and stronger oppressive weather types during this century. Therefore, we will also assess the future health burden of weather types based on different climate change scenarios.

We will answer questions like:

  • What types of weather raises mortality?
  • Which diseases are particularly affected by adverse weather types?
  • Which population groups are most vulnerable to adverse weather types?
  • How will public health be affected by future climate change?