Social inequalities in heat-attributable mortality in the city of Turin, northwest of Italy: a time series analysis from 1982 to 2018

Environ Health. 2020 Nov 16;19(1):116. doi: 10.1186/s12940-020-00667-x.


Background: Understanding context specific heat-health risks in urban areas is important, especially given anticipated severe increases in summer temperatures due to climate change effects. We investigate social inequalities in the association between daily temperatures and mortality in summer in the city of Turin for the period 1982-2018 among different social and demographic groups such as sex, age, educational level, marital status and household occupants.

Methods: Mortality data are represented by individual all-cause mortality counts for the summer months between 1982 and 2018. Socioeconomic level and daily mean temperature were assigned to each deceased. A time series Poisson regression with distributed lag non-linear models was fitted to capture the complex nonlinear dependency between daily mortality and temperature in summer. The mortality risk due to heat is represented by the Relative Risk (RR) at the 99th percentile of daily summer temperatures for each population subgroup.

Results: All-cause mortality risk is higher among women (1.88; 95% CI = 1.77, 2.00) and the elderly (2.13; 95% CI = 1.94, 2.33). With regard to education, the highest significant effects for men is observed among higher education levels (1.66; 95% CI = 1.38, 1.99), while risks for women is higher for the lower educational level (1.93; 95% CI = 1.79, 2.08). Results on marital status highlighted a stronger association for widower in men (1.66; 95% CI = 1.38, 2.00) and for separated and divorced in women (2.11; 95% CI = 1.51, 2.94). The risk ratio of household occupants reveals a stronger association for men who lived alone (1.61; 95% CI = 1.39, 1.86), while for women results are almost equivalent between alone and not alone groups.

Conclusions: The associations between heat and mortality is unequal across different aspects of social vulnerability, and, inter alia, factors influencing the population vulnerability to temperatures can be related to demographic, social, and economic aspects. A number of issues are identified and recommendations for the prioritisation of further research are provided. A better knowledge of these effect modifiers is needed to identify the axes of social inequality across the most vulnerable population sub-groups.

Keywords: Climate change; Italy; Social inequalities; Summer temperature-attributable mortality; Urban Heat Island.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cities / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Heat Stress Disorders / mortality*
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Socioeconomic Factors*
  • Young Adult