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Europe’s Hottest Summer Ever Killed Over 61,000 People Last Year

Italy, Spain and Germany claimed the highest number of heat-related deaths. 

More than 61,000 people died across Europe due to heat during the continent’s hottest-ever summer last year, shocking new stats reveal.

Record-breaking temperatures led to heatwaves, droughts and forest fires across the region last summer.

Now, terrifying stats show that nearly 40,000 people died across the continent over the space of just one month.

Italy, Spain and Germany counted the highest number of heat-attributable deaths, whilst women were also shown to be more than twice as likely to die from heat than men.

The foreboding research from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), suggests that Europe – the continent experiencing the greatest warming – should expect to suffer around 68,000 premature, heat-related deaths each summer by the end of the decade unless more effective responses are implemented.

The researchers also warned that by 2040, heat could be expected to account for nearly 100,000 deaths across the continent each summer.

Record-breaking temperatures led to heatwaves, droughts and forest fires across the region last summer. PHOTO BY MAURICIO MASCARO/PEXELS 

ISGlobal, a center supported by the ‘la Caixa’ Foundation, in collaboration with the French National Institute of Health (Inserm), studied temperature and mortality data for the period between 2015 and 2022 for 823 regions in 35 European countries with populations of more than 543 million people.

These data were used to estimate epidemiological models and predict temperature-attributable mortality for each region and week of the summer period.

The summer of 2022, however, was a season of unprecedented, unrelenting heat.

The analysis, published in the journal Nature Medicine, estimates 61,672 heat-attributable deaths between May 30 and Sept. 4 last year.

Statistics show temperatures were warmer-than-average across every week of the summer period.

The hottest period alone – between July 11 and Aug. 14 – is predicted to have accounted for 38,881 heat-related deaths.

Within that period, a pan-European heatwave between July 18 and 24 is said to have caused 11,637 deaths alone.

The country with the highest number of heat-related deaths last summer was Italy, with 18,010 deaths, followed by Spain and Germany, which saw 11,324 and 8,173 deaths respectively.

The UK is estimated to have suffered 3,469 heat-related deaths last summer.

In terms of heat-related mortality rates, the stats suggested Italy had 295 deaths per million, followed by Greece (280), Spain (237) and Portugal (211).

The European average was estimated at 114 deaths per million.

Looking at temperature anomalies, France saw +2.43°C above the average values for the period 1991-2020, followed by Switzerland (+2.30°C), Italy (+2.28°C), Hungary (+2.13°C) and Spain (+2.11°C).

The study also included stats differentiated by age and sex, which showed a predictably marked increase in mortality in older age groups – but also especially in women.

It is estimated there were 4,822 deaths among Europeans under 65, 9,226 deaths among those between 65 and 79, and 36,848 deaths among those over 79.

The continent-wide data also showed heat-attributable mortality to be 63 percent higher in women than men – with some countries (Italy, Greece) recording double the number of heat-related deaths in women than men.

The data suggested a total of 35,406 premature deaths in women – 145 deaths per million – compared to an estimated 21,667 deaths in men (93 deaths per million).

This greater vulnerability of women to heat is observed in the population as a whole and especially in those over 80 years of age, where the mortality rate is 27 percent higher than that of men.

Europe is the continent experiencing the greatest warming of up to 1° C (33.80 °F) more than the global average.

Estimates by the research team suggest that, in the absence of an effective, adaptive response, the continent will face an average of more than 68,000 premature deaths each summer by 2030 and more than 94,000 by 2040.

Despite the shockingly-high number of heat-related deaths suffered on the continent last summer, the highest summer mortality was registered in 2003, when more than 70,000 excess deaths were reported.

But Joan Ballester Claramunt, the first author of the study and a researcher at ISGlobal, highlighted the fact that the heat of summer 2003 was ‘exceptional’ – whereas last summer’s was not.

“The summer of 2003 was an exceptionally rare phenomenon, even when taking into account the anthropogenic warming observed until then,” he said.

“This exceptional nature highlighted the lack of prevention plans and the fragility of health systems to cope with climate-related emergencies, something that was to some extent addressed in subsequent years.

“In contrast, the temperatures recorded in the summer of 2022 cannot be considered exceptional, in the sense that they could have been predicted by following the temperature series of previous years, and that they show that warming has accelerated over the last decade.”

Dr. Hicham Achebak, a researcher at Inserm and ISGlobal and another author of the study, added the stats showed that heat adaptation strategies currently employed by European nations require significant reassessment and improvement.

Dr. Achebak explained: “The fact that more than 61,600 people in Europe died of heat stress in the summer of 2022 – even though, unlike in 2003, many countries already had active prevention plans in place – suggests that the adaptation strategies currently available may still be insufficient.

“The acceleration of warming observed over the last ten years underlines the urgent need to reassess and substantially strengthen prevention plans, paying particular attention to the differences between European countries and regions, as well as the age and gender gaps, which currently mark the differences in vulnerability to heat.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

Edited by Saba Fatima and Asad Ali

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