High ambient temperature and mortality: a review of epidemiologic studies from 2001 to 2008

Environ Health. 2009 Sep 16;8:40. doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-8-40.


Background: This review examines recent evidence on mortality from elevated ambient temperature for studies published from January 2001 to December 2008.

Methods: PubMed was used to search for the following keywords: temperature, apparent temperature, heat, heat index, and mortality. The search was limited to the English language and epidemiologic studies. Studies that reported mortality counts or excess deaths following heat waves were excluded so that the focus remained on general ambient temperature and mortality in a variety of locations. Studies focusing on cold temperature effects were also excluded.

Results: Thirty-six total studies were presented in three tables: 1) elevated ambient temperature and mortality; 2) air pollutants as confounders and/or effect modifiers of the elevated ambient temperature and mortality association; and 3) vulnerable subgroups of the elevated ambient temperature-mortality association. The evidence suggests that particulate matter with less than 10 um in aerodynamic diameter and ozone may confound the association, while ozone was an effect modifier in the warmer months in some locations. Nonetheless, the independent effect of temperature and mortality was withheld. Elevated temperature was associated with increased risk for those dying from cardiovascular, respiratory, cerebrovascular, and some specific cardiovascular diseases, such as ischemic heart disease, congestive heart failure, and myocardial infarction. Vulnerable subgroups also included: Black racial/ethnic group, women, those with lower socioeconomic status, and several age groups, particularly the elderly over 65 years of age as well as infants and young children.

Conclusion: Many of these outcomes and vulnerable subgroups have only been identified in recent studies and varied by location and study population. Thus, region-specific policies, especially in urban areas, are vital to the mitigation of heat-related deaths.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Cause of Death
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Mortality*
  • Vulnerable Populations


  • Air Pollutants