February 24, 2024

Study Shows Air Conditioning Reduces Mortality Due to High Temperatures in Spain

Air conditioning and heating systems have been found to play a significant role in reducing mortality rates associated with extreme temperatures in Spain, according to a study conducted by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal). The study, published in Environment International, provides valuable insights for developing policies to adapt to climate change. As temperatures continue to rise in Spain, understanding the factors that reduce susceptibility to extreme temperatures is crucial for informing health adaptation policies and combating the negative effects of climate change.

Spain, like many other regions around the world, has experienced increasing temperatures in recent decades. The average annual temperature has risen at a rate of 0.36°C per decade, with an even more pronounced increase during the summer months at 0.40°C per decade. Surprisingly, this rise in temperature has coincided with a progressive decrease in mortality associated with both heat and cold.

To investigate the factors behind the reduction in heat and cold-related mortality despite rising temperatures, the study analyzed demographic and socioeconomic data. The researchers discovered that the prevalence of air conditioning (AC) in Spain was associated with a decline in heat-related mortality, while the prevalence of heating systems was linked to a decrease in cold-related mortality.

The study revealed that AC was responsible for approximately 28.6% of the decrease in deaths caused by heat and 31.5% of the decline in deaths due to extreme heat between the late 1980s and the early 2010s. Heating systems contributed significantly as well, accounting for around 38.3% of the reduction in cold-related deaths and a substantial decrease of 50.8% in fatalities related to extreme cold during the same period.

It is important to note that the decrease in mortality due to cold could have been even greater if not for the increase in the proportion of elderly individuals, who are more vulnerable to cold temperatures.

The researchers concluded that the reduction in heat-related mortality is primarily the result of socioeconomic development in the country over the study period, rather than specific interventions such as heat-wave warning systems. The statistical analysis for the study utilized daily mortality data and weather information for 48 provinces in mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands, spanning from January 1980 to December 2018. These data were then linked to various demographic and socioeconomic indicators to provide a comprehensive analysis.

While the findings highlight the effectiveness of air conditioning and heating as adaptation measures to mitigate the effects of heat and cold, the study revealed disparities in the prevalence of AC across different provinces in Spain. Many households still cannot afford air conditioning, which limits their ability to protect themselves from extreme temperatures.

Furthermore, the widespread use of AC could potentially contribute to further global warming depending on the source of electricity generation. Therefore, the study suggests that additional cooling strategies, such as expanding green and blue spaces in cities, are needed in conjunction with air conditioning.

The researchers believe that the findings of the study are essential for informing the development of adaptation strategies to climate change. Additionally, the results contribute to projections of the future impact of climate change on human health. With the increasing threat of rising temperatures due to climate change, it is crucial to prioritize measures that can safeguard vulnerable populations from the adverse effects of extreme temperatures.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it