WEATHER: Cold truth about warmer climes

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The Independent Online

Cold snaps can be fatally bad news for hot-blooded Italians and Greeks, according to a study which shows that death rates in warm countries rise faster as temperatures drop than they do in chillier regions. This is because people used to the heat forget to wrap up when the weather gets cold and do not heat their homes properly, it is suggested.

Researchers led by Professor WR Keatinge, from Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, investigated the link between death rate and temperature change in different parts of Europe.

The areas studied were northern Finland, southern Finland, south-western Germany, the Netherlands, London, northern Italy, Athens, and Palermo in Sicily.

Death rates for most regions were at their lowest when daily temperatures were around 18C (64.4F). The death rates then rose with each 1C drop in temperature, with the biggest increases seen in places that had mild winters.

In southern Finland, where the average winter temperature was -1C, mortality increased by 0.27% for each 1C fall from 18C.

But in Athens, where winters average 12.7C, the average mortality increase for each 1C fall from 18C was 2.15%.