Long-term exposure to PM2.5 and mortality in a national cohort in South Korea: effect modification by community deprivation, medical infrastructure, and greenness

Garam Byun, Sera Kim, Yongsoo Choi, Ayoung Kim, Aims Create Team, Jong Tae Lee, Michelle L. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Long-term exposure to PM2.5 has been linked to increased mortality risk. However, limited studies have examined the potential modifying effect of community-level characteristics on this association, particularly in Asian contexts. This study aimed to estimate the effects of long-term exposure to PM2.5 on mortality in South Korea and to examine whether community-level deprivation, medical infrastructure, and greenness modify these associations. Methods: We conducted a nationwide cohort study using the National Health Insurance Service-National Sample Cohort. A total of 394,701 participants aged 30 years or older in 2006 were followed until 2019. Based on modelled PM2.5 concentrations, 1 to 3-year and 5-year moving averages of PM2.5 concentrations were assigned to each participant at the district level. Time-varying Cox proportional-hazards models were used to estimate the association between PM2.5 and non-accidental, circulatory, and respiratory mortality. We further conducted stratified analysis by community-level deprivation index, medical index, and normalized difference vegetation index to represent greenness. Results: PM2.5 exposure, based on 5-year moving averages, was positively associated with non-accidental (Hazard ratio, HR: 1.10, 95% Confidence Interval, CI: 1.01, 1.20, per 10 µg/m3 increase) and circulatory mortality (HR: 1.22, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.47). The 1-year moving average of PM2.5 was associated with respiratory mortality (HR: 1.33, 95% CI: 1.05, 1.67). We observed higher associations between PM2.5 and mortality in communities with higher deprivation and limited medical infrastructure. Communities with higher greenness showed lower risk for circulatory mortality but higher risk for respiratory mortality in association with PM2.5. Conclusions: Our study found mortality effects of long-term PM2.5 exposure and underlined the role of community-level factors in modifying these association. These findings highlight the importance of considering socio-environmental contexts in the design of air quality policies to reduce health disparities and enhance overall public health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1266
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Dec

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • Cohort study
  • Deprivation index
  • Greenness
  • Medical infrastructure
  • Mortality
  • PM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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