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Deaths nearly 20% higher than average during UK’s record heatwave

The Office for National Statistics said deaths have been higher than the five-year average since spring and that they were still looking into why this might be

Saphora Smith
Climate Correspondent
Tuesday 02 August 2022 10:50 BST
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A empty playground in Sandall Park, Doncaster, as temperatures reached 40C for the first time on record.
A empty playground in Sandall Park, Doncaster, as temperatures reached 40C for the first time on record. (PA)

The number of deaths registered during the week of record-breaking heatwave in England and Wales was nearly 20 per cent higher than the five-year average, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Nearly 11,000 people died in England and Wales during the week ending 22 July when temperatures topped 40C in England, compared to the five-year average for that week which was around 9,300.

The excess deaths compared to the five year average were 18 per cent higher at 1,680.

At this stage it is hard to tell how much of that increase will be due to heat-related excess deaths, and the ONS said deaths have been higher than the five-year average since spring and that they were still looking into why this might be.

The number of deaths recorded that week were almost a third higher than the five-year average in private homes and more than 10 per cent higher in care homes, according to the ONS.

The ONS said that the number of excess deaths had been below average earlier this year in the winter, but have been above average since spring - a trend they were looking into.

It also points out that these are the number of registered deaths in that week, and while most deaths are registered relatively soon, it’s not always the case. Deaths from drownings, for example, have to be investigated by a coroner which can lead to delays before the death is registered, it said.

Extreme heat can exacerbate pre-existing health conditions like respiratory and heart diseases, but the death certificate wouldn’t necessarily describe the death as heat-related, so quantifying the number of heat-related excess deaths can be difficult. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke can also be deadly.

One scientist has estimated that nearly 1,000 people could have died due to the hight temperatures during July’s heatwave.

Antonio Gasparrini, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, estimated that England and Wales could expect to see 948 heat-related excess deaths, the vast majority among those aged 85 or over during the three-day heatwave that baked much of the country from 17-19 July.

While the extremely hot temperatures have subsided, parts of England and Wales are still experiencing sunny dry weather with some farmers reporting the earliest start to the harvest in decades.

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