News, Culture & Society

Pensioners more likely to die in cold weather

Pensioners are more likely to suffer heart failure in the cold weather, a decade-long study has found.

It suggested an increase in elderly people being taken to hospital or dying due to heart failure could be linked to changes in temperature.

Canadian researchers warned that elderly people with heart failure should avoid fog and low cloud in the winter as a preventive measure.

They noted a higher risk of hospitalisation or death in the winter period of the year (October to April) compared to the summer period (May to September).

The findings come as Britain grips itself for foggy nights alongside wet and windy spells after last week’s ‘Indian Summer’. 

A study suggested an increase in elderly people being taken to hospital or dying due to heart failure could be linked to changes in temperature

Lead author Professor Pierre Gosselin, of Universitié Laval, said: ‘Doctors rarely take the weather forecast into account when treating or making recommendations to heart failure patients.

‘So with the extreme differences in temperature due to climate change, we wanted to show how the weather is becoming a more relevant factor.

‘Our study shows that exposure to cold or high-pressure weather could trigger events leading to hospitalization or death in heart failure patients.’

He added: ‘This means that they should avoid exposure to fog and low cloud weather in winter as they often accompany high pressure systems.’

The new research, published in the journal Environment International, backs an array of evidence that suggests cold weather poses similar threats.

Various eye experts have previously warned that cold weather can even lead people to go blind. 

How was the study carried out? 

For the new study, the researchers assessed 112,793 people aged 65 or older that had been diagnosed with heart failure in Quebec between 2001 and 2011.  


Arthritis sufferers often say their joints are more painful when it is damp and cold outside.

But this may just be a myth, as twinges in hips and knees are actually more likely on a sunny day.

The argument has raged for years over bad weather make joints stiffer, or if it just puts people in a worse mood so they are more likely to notice pain.

A study involving Harvard University appeared to settle the debate last month.

It found, based on internet searches for arthritis, knee and hip pain over five years in 45 cities, that people in fact suffer more when it is hot. 

During that time, they measured the temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure and air pollutants in the surrounding environment. 

What did they find? 

They found the risk of hospitalisation or death of heart failure jumped by 0.7 per cent for every 1°C (33°F) decrease in the mean temperature of the previous seven days.

The risk of heart failure incident increased by 4.5 per cent for each increase of 1 kPa in atmospheric pressure.

In real terms, a drop of around 10°C (50°F) in the average temperature over seven days increases the risk of dying from heart failure by seven per cent.  

During the follow-up period, 21,157 heart failure events occurred, representing 18.7 per cent of the people studied. 

In total, 18,309 people were hospitalised and 4,297 died. In some cases, hospitalisation and death occurred the same day.

Forecasters earlier this week warned that hurricanes Maria and Lee are on their way to the UK this weekend.

They will be stripped of their energy source and weaken rapidly as they move away from the warmer tropical waters they are in currently.