Hypothermia deaths in Jefferson County, Alabama
- 1Center for Injury Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham
- 2Section of Trauma, Burns, and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham
- 3Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham
- 4Coroner/Medical Examiner Office, Jefferson County, Alabama and Department of Pathology, Forensic Division, University of Alabama at Birmingham
- Correspondence to: Gerald McGwin Jr, 120 Kracke Building, 1922 7th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35294-0016, USA
Introduction—Some reported characteristics associated with hypothermia mortality include older age, alcohol consumption, male sex, and black race. The purpose of this paper is to present the epidemiology of hypothermia deaths in Jefferson County, Alabama.
Methods—Autopsy reports maintained by the county coroner's office were abstracted for all cases with primary or underlying causes of death listed as “hypothermia” or “exposure to cold” between January 1983 and July 1999.
Results—Sixty three hypothermia deaths occurred in Jefferson County during the study period. The mean age among cases was 68 years, 63.9% were male and 70% were of black race. Rates of hypothermia death were highest among black males, followed by black females, particularly blacks aged 80 years or older. Deaths occurring indoors were more common among older persons and outdoor deaths more common among younger persons. Thirty per cent of decedents tested positive for alcohol, 75% of whom were found outdoors. Nine decedents tested positive for drugs or medications. Approximately 90% of decedents were identified as having one or more chronic medical conditions. Excluding alcoholics, 52% of decedents had one or more chronic medical conditions.
Conclusions—Hypothermia in Jefferson County, Alabama is a cause of death primarily affecting two distinct groups of individuals, elderly persons who develop hypothermia inside a dwelling and middle aged males who develop hypothermia out of doors and have consumed alcohol.