Gender differences in adaptation to heat in Spain
Artículo de revista
In Spain the average temperature has increased by 1.7 ◦C since pre-industrial times. There has been an increase in heat waves both in terms of frequency and intensity, with a clear impact in terms of population health. The effect of heat waves on daily mortality presents important territorial differences. Gender also affects these impacts, as a determinant that conditions social inequalities in health. There is evidence that women may be more susceptible to extreme heat than men, although there are relatively few studies that analyze differences in the vulnerability and adaptation to heat by sex. This could be related to physiological causes. On the other hand, one of the indicators used to measure vulnerability to heat in a population and its adaptation is the minimum mortality temperature (MMT) and its temporal evolution. The aim of this study was to analyze the values of MMT in men and women and its temporal evolution during the 1983–2018 period in Spain’s provinces. An ecological, longitudinal retrospective study was carried out of time series data, based on maximum daily temperature and daily mortality data corresponding to the study period. Using cubic and quadratic fits between daily mortality rates and the temperature, the minimum values of these functions were determined, which allowed for determining MMT values. Furthermore, we used an improved methodology that provided for the estimation of missing MMT values when polynomial fits were inexistent. This analysis was carried out for each year. Later, based on the annual values of MMT, a linear fit was carried out to determine the rate of evolution of MMT for men and for women at the province level. Average MMT for all of Spain’s provinces was 29.4 ◦C in the case of men and 28.7 ◦C in the case of women. The MMT for men was greater than that of women in 86 percent of the total provinces analyzed, which indicates greater vulnerability among women. In terms of the rate of variation in MMT during the period analyzed, that of men was 0.39 ◦C/decade, compared to 0.53 ◦C/decade for women, indicating greater adaptation to heat among women, compared to men. The differences found between men and women were statistically significant. At the province level, the results show great heterogeneity. Studies carried out at the local level are needed to provide knowledge about those factors that can explain these differences at the province level, and to allow for incorporating a gender perspective in the implementation of measures for adaptation to high temperatures.