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Visits to the Doctor by the Elderly: The Role of Temperature
Hajat, S. and Haines, A. 2002. Associations of cold temperatures with GP consultations for respiratory and cardiovascular disease amongst the elderly in London. International Journal of Epidemiology 31: 825-830.

What was done
The authors set out to determine whether or not the well-documented relationship between cold temperatures and cardiovascular/respiratory mortality in the elderly extends to the number of visits by the elderly to general practitioners. To accomplish this objective, they used general additive models to regress time-series of daily numbers of general practitioner consultations by the elderly against temperature. Consultation data included visits to the doctor for the following respiratory and cardiovascular complaints, as obtained for registered patients aged 65 and older from several London practices between January 1992 and September 1995: asthma, lower respiratory disease excluding asthma, upper respiratory disease excluding allergic rhinitis, and cardiovascular disease.

What was learned
The mean number of consultations was higher in cool-season months (October-March) than in warm-season months (April-September) for all respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, at mean temperatures below 5C, the relationship between respiratory disease consultations and temperature was linear, and stronger at a time lag of 6 to 15 days, such that a 1C decrease in mean temperature below 5C was associated with a 10.5% increase in all respiratory disease consultations.

What it means
The results of this study once again demonstrate the profound negative influence of colder, as opposed to warmer, temperatures on the health of the elderly. Warmer is definitely better than colder; and compared to the Little Ice Age - out of which the planet gradually emerged over the past century - the Modern Warm Period is a godsend.

Reviewed 2 October 2002