Objective: To examine the occurrence of frostbite in the general population and the related risk factors.
Methods: We analyzed two national FINRISK studies (1997 and 2002) and their cold sub-studies (N=2624 and N=6951, respectively), consisting of questionnaires administered to men and women aged 25-74 years.
Results: A total of 697 frostbites were reported, 425 of which had occurred during the past year and 272 over a lifetime according to the respondents. The overall proportion of annually occurring mild frostbite was 12.9% (14.2% and 11.9% for men and women, respectively). The annual incidence of severe frostbite was 1.1% (1.6% and 0.6% for men and women, respectively). The cumulative lifetime incidence of severe frostbite was 10.6% (14.1% and 7.4% for men and women, respectively). Frostbite occurs more often in men than women and decreases in frequency over the age of 65. Most frostbite incidents were reported among occupational groups such as skilled agricultural and fishery workers, craft and related trades workers, plant and machine operators, assemblers and technicians, and associate professionals. Work-related risk factors included employment in certain industries, high physical strain, and weekly cold exposure at work; however frostbite was also likely to occur during leisure time. Individual factors that increase frostbite risk are diabetes, white fingers in the cold, cardiac insufficiency, angina pectoris, stroke, depressive feelings, and heavy alcohol consumption.
Conclusions: Work-related and individual risk factors should be taken into account when developing risk assessment and management strategies for preventing frostbite both at work and during leisure time.