Background: Epidemiologic studies show that high temperatures are related to mortality, but little is known about the exposure-response function and the lagged effect of heat. We report the associations between daily maximum apparent temperature and daily deaths during the warm season in 15 European cities.
Methods: The city-specific analyses were based on generalized estimating equations and the city-specific results were combined in a Bayesian random effects meta-analysis. We specified distributed lag models in studying the delayed effect of exposure. Time-varying coefficient models were used to check the assumption of a constant heat effect over the warm season.
Results: The city-specific exposure-response functions have a V shape, with a change-point that varied among cities. The meta-analytic estimate of the threshold was 29.4 degrees C for Mediterranean cities and 23.3 degrees C for north-continental cities. The estimated overall change in all natural mortality associated with a 1 degrees C increase in maximum apparent temperature above the city-specific threshold was 3.12% (95% credibility interval = 0.60% to 5.72%) in the Mediterranean region and 1.84% (0.06% to 3.64%) in the north-continental region. Stronger associations were found between heat and mortality from respiratory diseases, and with mortality in the elderly.
Conclusions: There is an important mortality effect of heat across Europe. The effect is evident from June through August; it is limited to the first week following temperature excess, with evidence of mortality displacement. There is some suggestion of a higher effect of early season exposures. Acclimatization and individual susceptibility need further investigation as possible explanations for the observed heterogeneity among cities.