Electrocardiogram abnormalities in residents in cold homes: a cross-sectional analysis of the nationwide Smart Wellness Housing survey in Japan

Environ Health Prev Med. 2021 Oct 12;26(1):104. doi: 10.1186/s12199-021-01024-1.


Background: Excess winter mortality caused by cardiovascular disease is particularly profound in cold houses. Consistent with this, accumulating evidence indicates that low indoor temperatures at home increase blood pressure. However, it remains unclear whether low indoor temperatures affect other cardiovascular biomarkers. In its latest list of priority medical devices for management of cardiovascular diseases, the World Health Organization (WHO) included electrocardiography systems as capital medical devices. We therefore examined the association between indoor temperature and electrocardiogram findings.

Methods: We collected electrocardiogram data from 1480 participants during health checkups. We also measured the indoor temperature in the living room and bedroom for 2 weeks in winter, and divided participants into those living in warm houses (average exposure temperature ≥ 18 °C), slightly cold houses (12-18 °C), and cold houses (< 12 °C) in accordance with guidelines issued by the WHO and United Kingdom. The association between indoor temperature (warm vs. slightly cold vs. cold houses) and electrocardiogram findings was analyzed using multivariate logistic regression models, with adjustment for confounders such as demographics (e.g., age, sex, body mass index, household income), lifestyle (e.g., eating habit, exercise, smoking, alcohol drinking), and region.

Results: The average temperature at home was 14.7 °C, and 238, 924, and 318 participants lived in warm, slightly cold, and cold houses, respectively. Electrocardiogram abnormalities were observed in 17.6%, 25.4%, and 30.2% of participants living in warm, slightly cold, and cold houses, respectively (p = 0.003, chi-squared test). Compared to participants living in warm houses, the odds ratio of having electrocardiogram abnormalities was 1.79 (95% confidence interval: 1.14-2.81, p = 0.011) for those living in slightly cold houses and 2.18 (95% confidence interval: 1.27-3.75, p = 0.005) for those living in cold houses.

Conclusions: In addition to blood pressure, living in cold houses may have adverse effects on electrocardiogram. Conversely, keeping the indoor thermal environment within an appropriate range through a combination of living in highly thermal insulated houses and appropriate use of heating devices may contribute to good cardiovascular health.

Trial registration: The trial was retrospectively registered on 27 Dec 2017 to the University hospital Medical Information Network Clinical Trials Registry (UMIN-CTR, https://www.umin.ac.jp/ctr/ , registration identifier number UMIN000030601 ).

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Electrocardiogram; Housing; Indoor temperature; Winter.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cold Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electrocardiography*
  • Female
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Temperature*