Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
Researchers in the U.K. find that ambulance response times drop with the temperature.
You probably already know that crummy winter weather can be bad for your health for a number of reasons. It's flu season. Everyone's got seasonal affective disorder. You can slip and fall on a slick sidewalk, or crash your car on black ice.
But here's one winter health worry we'd never considered before: Researchers in the U.K. have found that as temperatures drop, so too do ambulance response times to your door (which might further compound your problem if you've got the flu, or SAD, or a cracked ribcage).
British researchers writing in the Emergency Medicine Journal looked at five years of ambulance-response data in the city of Birmingham. Between 2007 and 2011, they counted 794,137 emergency calls, 282,978 of them immediately life-threatening. Ambulances in the U.K. have a target of reaching 75 percent of those most dire calls within eight minutes. For several days in December of 2010 – in the midst of the coldest December in a century – ambulances in the city were averaging instead about 15 minutes per call.
Across the time period studied, the researchers concluded that with every 1 degree (Celsius) drop in air temperature, there was a 1.3 percent drop in ambulance performance, as requests for help increased and road conditions worsened. This also means, the researchers add, that we now have one more consequence to worry about with climate change that could make winter cold waves even worse.