Years of life lost and mortality due to heat and cold in the three largest English cities

Katherine Arbuthnott, Shakoor Hajat, Clare Heaviside, Sotiris Vardoulakis

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23 Citations (Scopus)


There is a well-established relationship between temperature and mortality, with older individuals being most at risk in high-income settings. This raises the question of the degree to which lives are being shortened by exposure to heat or cold. Years of life lost (YLL) take into account population life expectancy and age at which mortality occurs. However, YLL are rarely used as an outcome-metric in studies of temperature-related mortality. This represents an important gap in knowledge; to better comprehend potential impacts of temperature in the context of climate change and an ageing population, it is important to understand the relationship between temperature and YLL, and also whether the risks of temperature related mortality and YLL have changed over recent years. Gridded temperature data derived from observations, and mortality data were provided by the UK Met Office and the Office for National Statistics (ONS), respectively. We derived YLL for each death using sex-specific yearly life expectancy from ONS English-national lifetables. We undertook an ecological time-series regression analysis, using a distributed-lag double-threshold model, to estimate the relationship between daily mean temperature and daily YLL and mortality between 1996 and 2013 in Greater London, the West Midlands including Birmingham, and Greater Manchester. Temperature-thresholds, as determined by model best fit, were set at the 91st (for heat-effects) and 35th (for cold-effects) percentiles of the mean temperature distribution. Secondly, we analysed whether there had been any changes in heat and cold related risk of YLL and mortality over time. Heat-effects (lag 0–2 days) were greatest in London, where for each 1 °C above the heat-threshold the risk of mortality increased by 3.9% (CI 3.5%, 4.3%) and YLL increased by 3.0% (2.5%, 3.5%). Between 1996 and 2013, the proportion of total deaths and YLL attributable to heat in London were 0.50% and 0.40% respectively. Cold-effects (lag 0–27 days) were greatest in the West Midlands, where for each 1 °C below the cold-threshold, risk of mortality increased by 3.1% (2.4%, 3.7%) and YLL also increased by 3.1% (2.2%, 3.9%). The proportion of deaths and YLL attributable to cold in the West Midlands were 3.3% and 3.2% respectively. We found no evidence of decreasing susceptibility to heat and cold over time. The addition of life expectancy information into calculations of temperature-related risk and mortality burdens for English cities is novel. We demonstrate that although older individuals are at greatest risk of temperature-related mortality, heat and cold still make a significant contribution to the YLL due to premature death.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105966
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironment International
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


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