Rationale: Episode analyses of heat waves have documented a comparatively higher impact on mortality than on morbidity (hospital admissions) in European cities. The evidence from daily time series studies is scarce and inconsistent.
Objectives: To evaluate the impact of high environmental temperatures on hospital admissions during April to September in 12 European cities participating in the Assessment and Prevention of Acute Health Effects of Weather Conditions in Europe (PHEWE) project.
Methods: For each city, time series analysis was used to model the relationship between maximum apparent temperature (lag 0-3 days) and daily hospital admissions for cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory causes by age (all ages, 65-74 age group, and 75+ age group), and the city-specific estimates were pooled for two geographical groupings of cities.
Measurements and main results: For respiratory admissions, there was a positive association that was heterogeneous between cities. For a 1 degrees C increase in maximum apparent temperature above a threshold, respiratory admissions increased by +4.5% (95% confidence interval, 1.9-7.3) and +3.1% (95% confidence interval, 0.8-5.5) in the 75+ age group in Mediterranean and North-Continental cities, respectively. In contrast, the association between temperature and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular admissions tended to be negative and did not reach statistical significance.
Conclusions: High temperatures have a specific impact on respiratory admissions, particularly in the elderly population, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Why high temperature increases cardiovascular mortality but not cardiovascular admissions is also unclear. The impact of extreme heat events on respiratory admissions is expected to increase in European cities as a result of global warming and progressive population aging.