Hot weather deaths projected to rise 257 percent by 2050s, experts warn

February 3, 2014

The number of annual excess deaths caused by hot weather in England and Wales is projected to surge by 257% by the middle of the century, as a result of climate change and population growth, concludes research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The elderly (75+) will be most at risk, particularly in the South and the Midlands, the findings suggest.

The research team, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Public Health England, used time-series regression analysis to chart historic (1993-2006) fluctuations in weather patterns and death rates to characterise the associations between temperature and mortality, by region and by age group.

They then applied these to projected population increases and local climate to estimate the future number of deaths likely to be caused by temperature - hot and cold - for the 2020s, 2050s, and 2080s.

They based their calculations on the projected daily average temperatures for 2000-09, 2020-29, 2050-59 and 2080-89, derived from the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC), and population growth estimates from the Office of National Statistics.

The calculations indicated a significantly increased risk of deaths associated with temperature across all regions of the UK, with the elderly most at risk.

The number of days is projected to rise steeply, tripling in frequency by the mid 2080s, while the number of cold days is expected to fall, but at a less dramatic pace.

At the national level, the death rate increases by just over 2% for every 1ᵒC rise in temperature above the heat threshold, with a corresponding 2% increase in the death rate for every 1ᵒC fall in temperature below the cold threshold.

In the absence of any adaptive measures, excess deaths related to heat would be expected to rise by 257% by the 2050s, from an annual baseline of 2000, while those related to the cold would be expected to fall by 2% as a result of milder winters, from a current toll of around 41,000, but will still remain significant.

Those aged 85 and over will be most at risk, partly as a result of population growth - projected to reach 89 million by the mid 2080s - and the increasing proportion of elderly in the population, say the authors.

Regional variations are likely to persist: London and the Midlands are the regions most vulnerable to the impact of heat, while Wales, the North West, Eastern England and the South are most vulnerable to the impact of cold.

Rising fuel costs may make it harder to adapt to extremes of temperature, while increased reliance on active cooling systems could simply end up driving up energy consumption and worsening the impact of , say the authors.

Better and more sustainable options might instead include shading, thermal insulation, choice of construction materials implemented at the design stage of urban developments, suggest the authors.

While the death toll from cold weather temperatures will remain higher than that caused by hot temperatures, the authors warn that health protection from hot weather will become increasingly necessary - and vital for the very old.

"As the contribution of and ageing on future related health burdens will be large, the health protection of the elderly will be important," warn the authors, recalling the social changes that have led to many elderly living on their own - a contributory factor to the high death toll in France in the 2003 heatwave.

Explore further: Death rates will rise because of global warming

More information: Climate change effects on human health: projections of temperature related mortality for the UK during the 2020s, 2050s, and 2080s, Online First, doi 10.1136-2013-202449

Related Stories

Death rates will rise because of global warming

July 2, 2007

Global warming will cause more deaths in summer because of higher temperatures but these will not be offset by fewer deaths in milder winters finds an analysis published online ahead of print in Occupational and Environment ...

Heat-related deaths in Manhattan projected to rise

May 19, 2013

Residents of Manhattan will not just sweat harder from rising temperatures in the future, says a new study; many may die. Researchers say deaths linked to warming climate may rise some 20 percent by the 2020s, and, in some ...

Climate change increased the number of deaths

October 22, 2013

The increased temperatures caused by ongoing climate change in Stockholm, Sweden between 1980 and 2009 caused 300 more premature deaths than if the temperature increase did not take place. In Sweden as a whole, it would mean ...

Climate change's heat—not cold—is the real killer

January 31, 2014

(Phys.org) —Chill with impunity through this winter's extreme cold – and brace for the next summer heat wave, when fiery temperatures and air pollution conspire to fill hospitals and morgues.

Recommended for you

'Business diet' a bad deal for the heart

August 19, 2016

(HealthDay)—The typical "social business diet"—heavy on red meats, sweet drinks, processed snacks and booze—takes a toll on the heart, a new study finds.

Concussion rates rising significantly in adolescents

August 18, 2016

The number of Americans diagnosed with concussions is growing, most significantly in adolescents, according to researchers at UC San Francisco. They recommend that adolescents be prioritized for ongoing work in concussion ...

Large trial proposed to compare HCTZ, chlorthalidone

August 17, 2016

(HealthDay)—A large randomized trial is being developed to compare the effectiveness of hydrochlorothiazide with chlorthalidone in Veterans Affairs (VA) patients, according to an Ideas and Opinions piece published online ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.