Cardiorespiratory effects of heatwaves: A systematic review and meta-analysis of global epidemiological evidence

Jian Cheng, Zhiwei Xu, Hilary Bambrick, Vanessa Prescott, Ning Wang, Yuzhou Zhang, Hong Su, Shilu Tong, Wenbiao Hu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

135 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Heatwaves affect human health and global heatwave-related disease burden will continue to rise as climate change proceeds, but the effects of heatwaves on cardiovascular and respiratory diseases have not yet been investigated globally and nationally. Objectives: This systematic review and meta-analysis aim to quantify heatwave effects on four major health outcomes: cardiovascular and respiratory morbidity and mortality. Methods: We searched PubMed, Scopus, Embase, and Web of Science for relevant studies from database inception to November 2018. Categories of morbidity included hospital admissions, emergency department visits, and ambulance attendances/call-outs. A random-effects meta-analysis model was used to pool previous estimates of heatwave effects on mortality and morbidity due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Subgroup analyses by gender, age, and disease cause were conducted. Sensitivity analyses were performed by the categories of morbidity, heatwave definitions, study design, and using a leave-one-out cross validation approach. This study is registered with PROSPERO (number: CRD42018101964). Results: We identified 54 studies conducted in 20 countries. In total, there were significant associations between heatwaves and cardiovascular mortality (risk estimates (RE): 1.149, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.090, 1.210) and respiratory mortality (RE: 1.183, 95%CI: 1.092, 1.282), but the magnitude of these associations varied across countries and studies. Heatwaves appeared to be marginally associated with cardiovascular and respiratory morbidities (RE: 0.999, 95%CI: 0.996, 1.002, p-value = 0.61 for cardiovascular morbidity; RE: 1.043, 95%CI: 0.995, 1.093; p-value = 0.08 for respiratory morbidity). For mortality, significant associations were observed for the elderly, ischemic heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Sensitivity analyses suggested that these findings were robust. Conclusion: Mortality of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases appeared to be more vulnerable to heatwaves in comparison to morbidity. Considering high heterogeneity detected between studies and limited investigations into subpopulations, more research are required to provide a clearer picture of how heatwaves affect cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in different settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108610
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


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