Historically, the UK has seen only a fraction of heat-related deaths compared to the number of cold-related deaths. But this is all about to change due to climate change. A new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health by Public Health England and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine shows that deaths resulting from hot weather are expected to soar over the next four decades and that the number of annual deaths in the UK related to heat will rise by 257 percent by 2050 and 535 percent by 2080.
The study examined fluctuations in weather patterns and death rates between 1993 and 2006 to establish a connective pattern between temperature and mortality. Researchers then looked at projected population and climate increases so they could estimate temperature-related deaths for the UK in the coming decades. They found a 2.1 per cent increase in the number of deaths for every 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature and a 2 per cent increase in mortality for every 1 degree Celsius drop in temperature. And because the number of hot weather days is expected to rise dramatically, tripling by 2080, the number of heat-related deaths will increase by 66 per cent in the 2020s, 257 per cent by the 2050s and an extraordinary 535 per cent by the 2080s.
Meanwhile, the number of cold days is expected to fall, though less dramatically. Cold-weather related deaths will increase by 3 per cent in the 2020s, then decrease by 2 per cent in the 2050s and by 12 per cent in the 2080s. Currently there are around 41,000 winter-related deaths and 2,000 excess heat-related deaths. But according to the study, this trend will begin to reverse with roughly 12,500 heat-related deaths and 36,500 cold-related deaths by 2080.
The people who will be most at risk for heat-related stress are the elderly – people over the age of 75 and particularly those over 85. This effect will be exacerbated as the elderly population in the UK is expected to grow over the coming years. Dr. Sotiris Vardoulakic, head of the PHE’s air pollution and climate change group and co-author of the paper, said, “during periods of warmer weather, higher temperatures can lead to greater-than-usual stress on the body caused by heat and higher levels of air pollution, which can aggravate the symptoms of those with chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular and respiratory conditions.”
Via The Guardian
Photos by Klearchos Kapoutsis from Santorini, Greece (Old ManUploaded by Yarl) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons and by I, Beyond silence [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons