Estimating the effects of ambient temperature on mortality : methodological challenges and proposed solutions

Guo, Yuming (2012) Estimating the effects of ambient temperature on mortality : methodological challenges and proposed solutions. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


The health impacts of exposure to ambient temperature have been drawing increasing attention from the environmental health research community, government, society, industries, and the public. Case-crossover and time series models are most commonly used to examine the effects of ambient temperature on mortality. However, some key methodological issues remain to be addressed. For example, few studies have used spatiotemporal models to assess the effects of spatial temperatures on mortality. Few studies have used a case-crossover design to examine the delayed (distributed lag) and non-linear relationship between temperature and mortality. Also, little evidence is available on the effects of temperature changes on mortality, and on differences in heat-related mortality over time.

This thesis aimed to address the following research questions: 1. How to combine case-crossover design and distributed lag non-linear models? 2. Is there any significant difference in effect estimates between time series and spatiotemporal models? 3. How to assess the effects of temperature changes between neighbouring days on mortality? 4. Is there any change in temperature effects on mortality over time? To combine the case-crossover design and distributed lag non-linear model, datasets including deaths, and weather conditions (minimum temperature, mean temperature, maximum temperature, and relative humidity), and air pollution were acquired from Tianjin China, for the years 2005 to 2007. I demonstrated how to combine the case-crossover design with a distributed lag non-linear model. This allows the case-crossover design to estimate the non-linear and delayed effects of temperature whilst controlling for seasonality. There was consistent U-shaped relationship between temperature and mortality. Cold effects were delayed by 3 days, and persisted for 10 days. Hot effects were acute and lasted for three days, and were followed by mortality displacement for non-accidental, cardiopulmonary, and cardiovascular deaths. Mean temperature was a better predictor of mortality (based on model fit) than maximum or minimum temperature.

It is still unclear whether spatiotemporal models using spatial temperature exposure produce better estimates of mortality risk compared with time series models that use a single site’s temperature or averaged temperature from a network of sites. Daily mortality data were obtained from 163 locations across Brisbane city, Australia from 2000 to 2004. Ordinary kriging was used to interpolate spatial temperatures across the city based on 19 monitoring sites. A spatiotemporal model was used to examine the impact of spatial temperature on mortality. A time series model was used to assess the effects of single site’s temperature, and averaged temperature from 3 monitoring sites on mortality. Squared Pearson scaled residuals were used to check the model fit. The results of this study show that even though spatiotemporal models gave a better model fit than time series models, spatiotemporal and time series models gave similar effect estimates. Time series analyses using temperature recorded from a single monitoring site or average temperature of multiple sites were equally good at estimating the association between temperature and mortality as compared with a spatiotemporal model.

A time series Poisson regression model was used to estimate the association between temperature change and mortality in summer in Brisbane, Australia during 1996–2004 and Los Angeles, United States during 1987–2000. Temperature change was calculated by the current day's mean temperature minus the previous day's mean. In Brisbane, a drop of more than 3 �C in temperature between days was associated with relative risks (RRs) of 1.16 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.02, 1.31) for non-external mortality (NEM), 1.19 (95% CI: 1.00, 1.41) for NEM in females, and 1.44 (95% CI: 1.10, 1.89) for NEM aged 65.74 years. An increase of more than 3 �C was associated with RRs of 1.35 (95% CI: 1.03, 1.77) for cardiovascular mortality and 1.67 (95% CI: 1.15, 2.43) for people aged < 65 years. In Los Angeles, only a drop of more than 3 �C was significantly associated with RRs of 1.13 (95% CI: 1.05, 1.22) for total NEM, 1.25 (95% CI: 1.13, 1.39) for cardiovascular mortality, and 1.25 (95% CI: 1.14, 1.39) for people aged . 75 years. In both cities, there were joint effects of temperature change and mean temperature on NEM. A change in temperature of more than 3 �C, whether positive or negative, has an adverse impact on mortality even after controlling for mean temperature.

I examined the variation in the effects of high temperatures on elderly mortality (age . 75 years) by year, city and region for 83 large US cities between 1987 and 2000. High temperature days were defined as two or more consecutive days with temperatures above the 90th percentile for each city during each warm season (May 1 to September 30). The mortality risk for high temperatures was decomposed into: a "main effect" due to high temperatures using a distributed lag non-linear function, and an "added effect" due to consecutive high temperature days. I pooled yearly effects across regions and overall effects at both regional and national levels. The effects of high temperature (both main and added effects) on elderly mortality varied greatly by year, city and region. The years with higher heat-related mortality were often followed by those with relatively lower mortality. Understanding this variability in the effects of high temperatures is important for the development of heat-warning systems.

In conclusion, this thesis makes contribution in several aspects. Case-crossover design was combined with distribute lag non-linear model to assess the effects of temperature on mortality in Tianjin. This makes the case-crossover design flexibly estimate the non-linear and delayed effects of temperature. Both extreme cold and high temperatures increased the risk of mortality in Tianjin. Time series model using single site’s temperature or averaged temperature from some sites can be used to examine the effects of temperature on mortality. Temperature change (no matter significant temperature drop or great temperature increase) increases the risk of mortality. The high temperature effect on mortality is highly variable from year to year.

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ID Code: 59970
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Tong, Shilu & Barnett, Adrian G.
Keywords: climate change, temperature, temperature change, unstable weather, heat effect, mortality, time series, case–crossover, spatiotemporal model, distributed lag non-linear model, heatwaves warning system
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 13 May 2013 05:02
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2015 04:46

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