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J Urban Health. 2011 Aug;88(4):637-50. doi: 10.1007/s11524-011-9599-9.

Help-seeking behavior during elevated temperature in Chinese population.

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School of Public Health and Primary Care, Prince of Wales Hospital, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong, China.


The negative impact of extreme temperatures on health is well-established. Individual help-seeking behavior, however, may mitigate the extent of morbidity and mortality during elevated temperatures. This study examines individual help-seeking behavior during periods of elevated temperatures among a Chinese population. Help-seeking patterns and factors that influence behavior will be identified so that vulnerable subgroups may be targeted for health protection during heat crises. A retrospective time-series Poisson generalized additive model analysis, using meteorological data of Hong Kong Observatory and routine emergency help call data from The Hong Kong Senior Citizen Home Safety Association during warm seasons (June-September) 1998-2007, was conducted. A "U"-shaped association was found between daily emergency calls and daily temperature. About 49% of calls were for explicit health-related reasons including dizziness, shortness of breath, and general pain. The associate with maximum temperature was statistically significant (p = 0.034) with the threshold temperature at which the frequency of health-related calls started to increase being around 30-32°C. Mean daily relative humidity (RH) also had a significant U-shaped association with daily emergency health-related calls with call frequency beginning to increase with RH greater than 70-74% (10-25% of the RH distribution). Call frequency among females appeared to be more sensitive to high temperatures, with a threshold between 28.5°C and 30.5°C while calls among males were more sensitive to cold temperatures (threshold 31.5-33.5°C). Results indicate differences in community help-seeking behavior at elevated temperatures. Potential programs or community outreach services might be developed to protect vulnerable subgroups from the adverse impact of elevated temperatures.

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