Survey Finds Winter Weather Hospitalizes Thousands, Kills Hundreds

Frigid temperatures, which each year cause hypothermia and other cold-related heath problems, resulted in more than 6,000 hospitalizations and 827 deaths in 2006, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

AHRQ's analysis of 6,182 cold weather-related hospitalizations found:

  • Men accounted for about 40 percent more hospitalizations for exposure to cold weather than women.
  • People age 65 and older were the most likely to be hospitalized--about seven times more likely than people age 18 to 44 and three times as likely as people age 45 to 64.
  • The most common reasons for cold weather-related hospitalizations included hypothermia (which can cause loss of physical and mental abilities and, in extreme cases, death), frostbite, respiratory failure, and pneumonia.

The results are is based on Hospital Stays Resulting from Excessive Heat and Cold Exposure Due to Weather Conditions in U.S. Community Hospitals, 2005 (www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb55.jsp), but updated to reflect 2006 statistics from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays that is nationally representative of inpatient stays in all short-term, non-Federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the United States and include all patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.

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