Volume 35 - Article 33 | Pages 991–1010  

On the association between weather variability and total and cause-specific mortality before and during industrialization in Sweden

By Daniel Oudin Åström, Sören Edvinsson, David Hondula, Joacim Rocklöv, Barbara Schumann


Background: While there is ample evidence for health risks associated with heat and other extreme weather events today, little is known about the impact of weather patterns on population health in preindustrial societies.

Objective: To investigate the impact of weather patterns on population health in Sweden before and during industrialization.

Methods: We obtained records of monthly mortality and of monthly mean temperatures and precipitation for Skellefteå parish, northern Sweden, for the period 1800-1950. The associations between monthly total mortality, as well as monthly mortality due to infectious and cardiovascular diseases, and monthly mean temperature and cumulative precipitation were modelled using a time series approach for three separate periods, 1800−1859, 1860-1909, and 1910-1950.

Results: We found higher temperatures and higher amounts of precipitation to be associated with lower mortality both in the medium term (same month and two-months lag) and in the long run (lag of six months up to a year). Similar patterns were found for mortality due to infectious and cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, the effect of temperature and precipitation decreased over time.

Conclusions: Higher temperature and precipitation amounts were associated with reduced death counts with a lag of up to 12 months. The decreased effect over time may be due to improvements in nutritional status, decreased infant deaths, and other changes in society that occurred in the course of the demographic and epidemiological transition.

Contribution: The study contributes to a better understanding of the complex relationship between weather and mortality and, in particular, historical weather-related mortality.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Neighborhoods and mortality in Sweden: Is deprivation best assessed nationally or regionally?
Volume 38 - Article 18

Old age, health and social inequality: Exploring the social patterns of mortality in 19th century northern Sweden
Volume 26 - Article 23

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