Skip to main content

Socio‐economic factors do also matter: comments on the article “Can climatic factors explain the differences in COVID-19 incidence and severity across the spanish regions?: an ecological study”


A report published in this journal showed an inversely significant association between ultraviolet radiation (UVR) before the pandemic and cumulative COVID-19 cases in Spain. The analyses employed several meteorological factors, but socio-economic factors were not included. We examined the associations of COVID-19 cases with selected factors and found a significance on gross domestic product per capita (p = 0.037 by Spearman’s correlation). Hence, simple regression analyses of UVR would be confounded with regional difference in economic activities. In addition, we raised several questions for limitations due to the study design and analyses.

Dear Editor

Recent research article published in this journal demonstrated that the number of COVID-19 cases associated with ultraviolet radiation (UVR) in Spain [1]. It is possible that UVR can determine Vitamin D status and may modify the susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2. UVR also disinfects SARS-CoV-2 as shown by several experimental studies [2, 3]. However, it was an ecological study with limited evidence, and as authors stated as a limitation, there may be potential biases and the findings must be confirmed with individual data analyses. We would also comment further points that there is a large uncertainty regarding to the results.

Firstly, even an ecological study reporting correlation between specific weather variables and cumulative incidence of COVID-19 should consider possible confounders. Since the variation of the cumulative incidence of COVID-19 could be explained by other variables as well, such as socioeconomic, demographic factors, and healthcare policy. Such variables were not taken into account by authors. We know that there is a difference in population densities and economic disparities among the regions of Spain included in the study [4]. Economic activity is apparently related to human activity and the probability of human contact to infected individuals is a major factor in the transmission of infectious diseases. Indeed, previous world-wide comparison showed correlations between COVID-19 cases and gross domestic product (GDP), and GDP per capita [5]. Then, we examined the association between number of COVID-19 cases in Spain given in the article with GDP per capita in the regions, and a significant correlation was obtained similarly to UVR (p = 0.037 by Spearman’s correlation; Fig. 1). Therefore, authors could not conclude that a weather variable, UVR predominantly influences COVID-19 incidence and severity unless other significant variables are included.

Secondly, Fig. 2 of the original article [1] showed that the community with higher temperature was also correlated with lower cumulative incidence of COVID-19. However, it could not imply that people residing in community with high temperature will have lower risk of COVID-19 infection since the community-level data were used in the study instead of individual data. At least, they need to investigate the relationship between specific weather factors and daily or weekly COVID-19 incidences separately in each community.

Thirdly, the authors also mentioned that pattern of the association between humidity and COVID-19 incidence in the study was inconsistent with a previous preprint by Wang et al., 2020 [6]. The difference could be due in part to the statistical method of adjustment of covariates.

We believe that environmental factors determine the human susceptibility to diseases and behaviors especially to human contacts. Nonetheless, the methodology used in this study was insufficient to conclude that specific weather variables influence the incidence of COVID-19 in Spain, at least as hypotheses. Thus, the appropriate statistical method should be further applied to obtain the possible associations.

Fig. 1

Relationship between gross domestic product per capita in 2019 and cumulative incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection across the Spanish AA.CC

Availability of data and materials

Data and material sharing are not applicable to this letter.


  1. 1.

    Cacho PM, Hernández JL, López-Hoyos M, Martínez-Taboada VM. Can climatic factors explain the differences in COVID-19 incidence and severity across the Spanish regions?: An ecological study. Environ Health. 2020;19(1):106.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Kitagawa H, Nomura T, Nazmul T, Omori K, Shigemoto N, Sakaguchi T, Ohge H. Effectiveness of 222-nm ultraviolet light on disinfecting SARS-CoV-2 surface contamination. Am J Infect Control. 2020; S0196-6553(20)30809-9.

  3. 3.

    Heilingloh CS, Aufderhorst UW, Schipper L, Dittmer U, Witzke O, Yang D, Zheng X, Sutter K, Trilling M, Alt M, Steinmann E, Krawczyk A. Susceptibility of SARS-CoV-2 to UV irradiation. Am J Infect Control. 2020;48(10):1273–5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Instituto Nacional de Estadística. Spanish Regional Accounts. Statistical review 2019. 2020;

  5. 5.

    Miller LE, Bhattacharyya R, Miller AL. Data regarding country-specific variability in Covid-19 prevalence, incidence, and case fatality rate. Data Brief. 2020;32:106276.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Wang J, Tang K, Feng K, Lin X, Lv W, Chen K, Wang F. High Temperature and High Humidity Reduce the Transmission of COVID-19. Arxiv. 2020; arXiv:2003.05003.

Download references


This correspondence was partly supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) (Grant No. 17H06281).

Author information




AP and KHH drafted the initial manuscript, MHS analyzed data and YC and MHS reviewed the manuscript. All of them have approved the final form of this letter.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kouji H. Harada.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Competing interests

All authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Phosri, A., Cao, Y., Harada Sassa, M. et al. Socio‐economic factors do also matter: comments on the article “Can climatic factors explain the differences in COVID-19 incidence and severity across the spanish regions?: an ecological study”. Environ Health 20, 17 (2021).

Download citation


  • Socio‐economic factors
  • Climatic factors
  • COVID-19
  • Ultraviolet radiation
  • Statistical analyses