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Weilnhammer, Veronika; Schmid, Jonas; Mittermeier, Isabella; Schreiber, Fabian; Jiang, Linmiao; Pastuhovic, Vedran; Herr, Caroline; Heinze, Stefanie (2021): Extreme weather events in europe and their health consequences - A systematic review. In: International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, Vol. 233
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BACKGROUND Due to climate change, the frequency, intensity and severity of extreme weather events, such as heat waves, cold waves, storms, heavy precipitation causing wildfires, floods, and droughts are increasing, which could adversely affect human health. The purpose of this systematic review is therefore to assess the current literature about the association between these extreme weather events and their impact on the health of the European population. METHODS Observational studies published from January 1, 2007 to May 17, 2020 on health effects of extreme weather events in Europe were searched systematically in Medline, Embase and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. The exposures of interest included extreme temperature, heat waves, cold waves, droughts, floods, storms and wildfires. The health impacts included total mortality, cardiovascular mortality and morbidity, respiratory mortality and morbidity, and mental health. We conducted the systematic review following PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-analysis). The quality of the included studies was assessed using the NICE quality appraisal checklist (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). RESULTS The search yielded 1472 articles, of which 35 met the inclusion criteria and were included in our review. Studies regarding five extreme weather events (extreme heat events, extreme cold events, wildfires, floods, droughts) were found. A positive association between extreme heat/cold events and overall, cardiovascular and respiratory mortality was reported from most studies. Wildfires are likely to increase the overall and cardiovascular mortality. Floods might be associated with the deterioration of mental health instead of mortality. Depending on their length, droughts could have an influence on both respiratory and cardiovascular mortality. Contradictory evidence was found in heat-associated morbidity and wildfire-associated respiratory mortality. The associations are inconclusive due to the heterogeneous study designs, study quality, exposure and outcome assessment. CONCLUSIONS Evidence from most of the included studies showed that extreme heat and cold events, droughts, wildfires and floods in Europe have negative impacts on human health including mental health, although some of the associations are not conclusive. Additional high-quality studies are needed to confirm our results and further studies regarding the effects of other extreme weather events in Europe are to be expected.