Multi-dimensional community characteristics in linking particulate matter pollution and cause-specific mortality: 72 communities of South Korea

Honghyok Kim, Michelle L. Bell, Jong Tae Lee

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Concentration-response function for exposure to ambient particulate matter (PM) and mortality (i.e., relative risk, RR) may be inequal across communities by socioeconomic conditions. Investigation on specific mechanisms of this inequality regarding susceptibility to PM, beyond non-specific “socioeconomic conditions”, would provide policy-relevant implications for tackling this inequality. However, such investigation via epidemiological studies is challenged by residual confounding by correlated mechanisms and different loss of life expectancy by PM exposures between communities. Here, we aimed to assess community characteristics including different aspects of socioeconomic deprivation, medical resources, health behaviors, air quality, and greenness in their relation to inequal RR for PM10 and cause-specific mortality in 72 municipalities in South Korea, 2006–2013, considering these challenges. We found that a 10 μg/m3 increase in PM10 on average across 46 days was associated with a 1.05% (95% CI: 0.24, 1.88) increase in all-cause mortality (ALL), 1.32% (95% CI: -0.29, 2.95) increase in cardiovascular mortality (CVD), and 6.47% (95% CI: 3.06, 10.00) increase in respiratory mortality (RES). The association between PM10 and mortality was higher in communities with higher ratio of SO2 to PM10 (ALL and RES), higher material deprivation (ALL, CVD, and RES), lower medical resources (CVD), higher prevalence of drinking (ALL and CVD), and lower prevalence of smoking (CVD and RES). Lag-structures showed smaller loss of life expectancy by PM exposures in communities with higher prevalence of smoking. Our findings suggest that PM-related health inequalities are shaped by a variety of mechanisms relating to susceptibility to PM exposures and different loss of life expectancy. Health policies controlling community characteristics may contribute to minimizing PM10-related health inequalities in those perspectives.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110989
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - 2021 May

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korea government (MSIT) (No.NRF-2020R1A2C1007274).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors


  • Air pollution
  • Health inequality
  • Mortality
  • Mortality displacement
  • PM
  • Socioeconomic conditions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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