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Winter weather hospitalizes thousands and kills hundreds

Research Activities, March 2009, No. 343

Each year, frigid temperatures cause hypothermia and other cold-related heath problems, and, in 2006, resulted in more than 6,000 hospitalizations and 827 deaths, according to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). 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 aged 18 to 44 and three times as likely as people aged 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.

For more information, go to Hospital Stays Resulting from Excessive Heat and Cold Exposure Due to Weather Conditions in U.S. Community Hospitals, 2005, HCUP Statistic Brief #55 (

The figures reported here are 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.

Current as of March 2009
Internet Citation: Winter weather hospitalizes thousands and kills hundreds: Research Activities, March 2009, No. 343. March 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.