The use of a complex thermohygrometric index in predicting adverse health effects in Athens.
ABSTRACT Mortality and morbidity indices are known to depend on changes in meteorological conditions. In Athens, severe adverse health effects following extreme heat conditions have been reported. The usefulness has been investigated of the complex thermohygrometric index (THI), a simple index based on maximum daily temperature and relative humidity, in predicting the health effects of specific meteorological conditions. The values of THI were found to correlate well with more complex bioclimatic indices; the THI could successfully replace temperature and humidity in predicting the daily number of deaths through multiple linear regression modelling. Thus the introduction of THI levels more than 28.5 degrees C and between 26.5 and 28.5 degrees C, through dummy variables, in a regression model explained 40% of the variability in the number of deaths during the months of July and August. During days with THI values less than 26.5 degrees C the mean number of deaths was 33.5, compared to 41.8 when THI was between 26.5 and 28.5 degrees C. The daily number of deaths increased to 108.2 when THI exceeded 28.5 degrees C. From this study, the exact level of THI at which public health measures must be taken was not clear and more work is needed to identify it. However, given its simplicity, the use of THI for predicting meteorological conditions which are adverse to health would appear to be promising in preventive medicine and in health services planning.