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The impact of temperature on years of life lost in Brisbane, Australia


Temperature is an important determinant of health. A better knowledge of how temperature affects population health is important not only to the scientific community, but also to the decision-makers who develop and implement early warning systems and intervention strategies to mitigate the health effects of extreme temperatures1,2. The temperature–health relationship is also of growing interest as climate change is projected to shift the overall temperature distribution higher3,4. Previous studies have examined the relative risks of temperature-related mortality, but the absolute measure of years of life lost is also useful as it combines the number of deaths with life expectancy. Here we use years of life lost to provide a novel measure of the impact of temperature on mortality in Brisbane, Australia. We also project the future temperature-related years of life lost attributable to climate change. We show that the association between temperature and years of life lost is U-shaped, with increased years of life lost for cold and hot temperatures. The temperature-related years of life lost will worsen greatly if future climate change goes beyond a 2 °C increase and without any adaptation to higher temperatures. This study highlights that public health adaptation to climate change is necessary.

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Figure 1: The effects of season on mortality risk and years of life lost in Brisbane, Australia, 1996–2004.
Figure 2: The effects of temperature on mortality risk and years of life lost in Brisbane, Australia, 1996–2004.
Figure 3: The delayed effects of temperature on mortality risk and years of life lost by lag at 13 °C.
Figure 4: The delayed effects of temperature on mortality risk and years of life lost by lag at 27 °C.


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C.H. was supported by a QUTPRA scholarship and CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship Collaboration Fund. S.T. was supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Research Fellowship. Computational resources and services used in this work were provided by the High Performance Computer and Research Support Unit, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.

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C.H. and A.G.B. contributed to the research design and data analyses. C.H. led in writing the paper, developing this with inputs from all authors.

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Correspondence to Cunrui Huang.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Huang, C., Barnett, A., Wang, X. et al. The impact of temperature on years of life lost in Brisbane, Australia. Nature Clim Change 2, 265–270 (2012).

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