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Keywords:

  • Science & Technology
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Public, Environmental & Occupational Health
  • Environmental Sciences & Ecology
  • Temperature
  • Weather
  • Climate
  • Crime
  • Homicide
  • South Africa
  • TIME-SERIES ANALYSIS
  • CLIMATE-CHANGE
  • CRIME RATES
  • WEATHER
  • VIOLENCE
  • MORTALITY
  • AGGRESSION
  • SUICIDE
  • ASSAULT
  • TRENDS

Short-term association between ambient temperature and homicide in South Africa: a case-crossover study

Tools:

Journal Title:

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH

Volume:

Volume 18, Number 1

Publisher:

, Pages 109-109

Type of Work:

Article

Abstract:

© 2019 The Author(s). Background: Criminology research has traditionally investigated sociodemographic predictors of crime, such as sex, race, age, and socioeconomic status. However, evidence suggests that short-term fluctuations in crime often vary more than long-term trends, which sociodemographic factors cannot explain. This has redirected researchers to explore how environmental factors, such as meteorological variables, influence criminal behavior. In this study we investigate the association between daily ambient temperature and homicide incidence in South Africa, a country with one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Methods: Mortality data was from South Africa's civil registration system and includes all recorded deaths in the country from 1997 to 2013 (17 years). Daily temperature was from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association of the United States and South Africa's Agricultural Research Council. Data were analyzed using a time-stratified case-crossover design with conditional logistic regression. We delineated cases as either "definite" (ICD-10 codes X85-Y09, n = 68,356) or "probable" homicides (ICD-10 codes W25-W26, W32-W34, W50, Y22-Y24, Y28-Y29, n = 177,873). Case periods were defined as the day on which a death occurred. Control periods were selected using a day-of-week match within the same month and district. Analyses investigated same-day and lagged effects of maximum, mean and minimum temperature. Results: A one-degree Celsius increase in same-day maximum temperature - our a priori metric of choice - was associated with a 1.5% (1.3-1.8%) increase in definite homicides and a 1.2% (1.1-1.3%) increase in total (definite + probable) homicides. Significant (p < 0.05) positive associations were also observed when applying other temperature metrics (mean, minimum) and lags (1, 0-1). The shape of the association did not display any clear non-linearities. There was no evidence of confounding by public holidays or air pollution. Conclusions: This study suggests a positive association between daily ambient temperature and homicide in South Africa. This temperature-health relationship may be of particular concern in the context of climate change. The ability to include meteorological variables as a predictor of criminal activity and violent behavior could prove valuable in resource allocation for crime prevention efforts.
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