Reduced body mass index and lethal hypothermia

Roger W. Byard, Fiona Bright, Calle Winskog

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Sixty-two individuals dying of hypothermia had their body mass indexes (BMIs) compared with a group of age- and sex-matched controls who had died of accidental trauma (age 30–89 yrs, average 67 yrs, M:F = 13:18). The hypothermic cases had BMIs ranging from 11.6–38.8, median 20.24, mean 21.59, which was significantly lower than the controls’ (p < 0.001): range 18.5–42.2, median 26.78, mean 27.21. This study has demonstrated that a group of individuals dying of hypothermia had significantly lower BMIs than the control cases. Although the precise reasons for this difference cannot be determined from the current data, features associated with low BMI that have been identified in other studies, such as older age, female sex, reduced muscle bulk, inter-current organic disease and social isolation, are likely to play a role. Of note, as these features are also markers for the frailty syndrome, low BMIs may also suggest a possible connection between these two conditions. Further inquiries into the circumstances of death (e.g. scene temperature, adequacy of heating and insulation etc.) in decedents presenting to autopsy with characteristics of frailty syndrome may help to clarify this possible link.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-454
Number of pages4
JournalAustralian Journal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • hypothermia
  • BMI
  • death
  • sarcopenia
  • frailty syndrome


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