The occurrence of frostbite and its risk factors in young men

Int J Circumpolar Health. 2004 Mar;63(1):71-80. doi: 10.3402/ijch.v63i1.17650.


Objectives: Previous studies have paid little attention to the occurrence of frostbites and related risk factors. The purpose of this study is to analyse the life-time occurrence of frostbite in young men and its association with the cold-provoked white finger syndrome (CPWF), smoking and hand vibration.

Methods: The study population consisted of 5839 Finnish men aged 17-30 years entering military service. Data was collected for cases of first-degree, or more severe, frostbite affecting the head and extremities. Logistic analysis was used to assess the risk of frostbite with respect to CPWF, smoking and hand vibration.

Results: The life-time and annual occurrences of frostbite were 44% and 2.2%, respectively (n = 2555). 2333 subjects (41%) had suffered first-degree freezing injury and 671 (12%) suffered severe injury at some time in their lives. The sites most prone to frostbite were the head, 1668 cases (31%), followed by the hands, 1154 (20%), and the feet, 810 (15%). The risk for frostbite in different body parts was increased among the subjects with CPWF (95% CI: 1.66 to 3.87), regular smokers (95% CI: 1.02 to 3.15) and those exposed to vibration (95% CI: 1.07 to 4.03).

Conclusions: A synergistic increase of frostbite was reported between CPWF and regular smokers, and between CPWF and hand/arm vibration in both exposure classes analysed. The life-time occurrence of frostbite among young healthy men was high. Frostbite, and its association with CPWF, smoking and hand/arm vibration should be noted by the health care personnel in circumpolar countries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Frostbite / epidemiology*
  • Frostbite / etiology*
  • Hand
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Vibration / adverse effects