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Health Effects of Seasonal Cold in Arctic Regions

Reference
Young, T.K. and Kakinen, T.M. 2010. The health of Arctic populations: Does cold matter? American Journal of Human Biology 22: 129-133.
The authors write that "Arctic populations, especially indigenous people, could be considered as 'vulnerable,' because their health status generally shows disparities when compared to the national or more southern populations," and that "it is not known if the harsh climate, and especially cold temperatures, could be a contributing or causative factor of the observed health inequalities." In an effort to shed some light on this subject, Young and Kakinen determined "mean January and July temperatures ... for 27 Arctic regions based on weather station data for the period 1961-1990 and their association with a variety of health outcomes assessed by correlation and multiple linear regression analyses."

The two researchers report that mean January temperature correlated negatively with several health outcomes, including infant mortality rate, age-standardized mortality rates (all causes, respiratory, cancer, injuries), perinatal mortality rate and tuberculosis incidence rate, but that it correlated positively with life expectancy. That is to say, as mean January temperature rose, the desirable metric of life expectancy at birth rose right along with it, while all of the undesirable health metrics (such as mortality and disease incidence) declined. For example, they report that "for every 10°C increase in mean January temperature, the life expectancy at birth among males increased by about six years," while "infant mortality rate decreased by about four deaths per thousand live births." As a result of their several findings, Young and Kakinen conclude that the cold climate of the Arctic is "significantly associated with higher mortality" and "should be recognized in public health planning," noting that "within a generally cold environment, colder climate results in worse health." For people living in these regions, therefore, a little global warming could go a long way towards improving their quality of life ... as well as the length of time they have to enjoy it!

Archived 21 April 2010