Amid all the hysteria about next week’s extreme temperatures – which could climb to 41°, according to the Met Office – it’s worth bearing in mind that many, many more excess deaths in England and Wales are associated with cold each year than with heat. According to a recent study in the Lancet Planetary Health, between 2000 and 2019, there were an average of 65,000 excess deaths per year in England and Wales associated with cold, but fewer than 800 a year associated with heat. In other words, roughly 80 times more deaths per year are associated with cold than heat.
Needless to say, the report’s authors blame these excess deaths on ‘climate change’ in general and have nothing to say about the likelihood of the 65,000 figure increasing next winter as a result of rising energy bills.
The researchers analysed 10.7 million deaths that occurred in England and Wales between 2000 and 2019 across over 37,473 small areas that include around 1,600 residents, also known as lower super output areas (LSOAs). They then linked these data with high-resolution gridded temperature maps and potential drivers of vulnerability to heat and cold, including demographic and socio-economic factors, health and disability, housing and neighbourhood, landscape, and climatological characteristics. This allowed the researchers to characterise differences across small areas and map variation in temperature-related mortality risks across the two countries.
Dr Pierre Masselot, Research Fellow in in Environmental Epidemiology and Statistics at LSHTM and co-author of the study, said: “The results come at a critical time as countries and communities face increasing health impacts due to climate change and need to find effective ways to adapt to changing temperatures. The analytical framework also provides a flexible tool that can be adapted for future studies which aim to model temperature-related risks and impacts at small-area level under different climate change scenarios.”
The authors emphasised that, while the research showed that excess mortality attributed to cold was significantly higher than that attributed to heat, these results should be interpreted with caution as more cold than hot days were recorded throughout the year. Despite this, they highlighted that cold-related mortality is evidently a considerable health burden, particularly in deprived areas, and should be addressed with targeted public health interventions.
Nevertheless, any un-biased person reading this report cannot help but conclude that the rising cost of utility bills caused, in part, by the Government’s pursuit of ‘net zero’ will result in far more deaths than next week’s heat wave.