ONS - Excess mortality during heat-periods and heat-related mortality: 1 June to 31 August 2022

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ONS Article

7 October 2022

Excess mortality during heat-periods and heat-related mortality: 1 June to 31 August 2022

This report has been produced jointly between UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

Main points

Using ONS deaths occurrences data we have found that:

  • During the five heat-periods between June and August 2022, 56,303 deaths occurred in England and Wales and were registered by 7 September. This is 3,271 deaths (6.2%) above the five-year average.
  • The 2022 heat-period with the largest number of excess deaths was the second heat-period (10 to 25 July), with 2,227 excess deaths (10.4% above average).
  • The average number of deaths per day was higher for heat-period days than non-heat-period days.
  • Each heat-period peak, most notably that on 19 July 2022, was followed by a fall in deaths to below the average over the following days. This suggests a short-term mortality displacement, where deaths among vulnerable individuals are ‘brought forward’ to within the heat-periods.
  • There were more excess deaths in females (2,159) compared with males (1,115) across heat-periods in 2022, a reversal of the trend observed between 2016 and 2021. Further, there were 5,017 deaths above average in those aged 70 years and over, compared with 1,749 deaths below average in those aged under 70 years.

Analysis by the UKHSA, using a statistical model to adjust for registration delays to estimate excess mortality (excluding COVID-19) during heat-periods for those aged 65 and over, shows:

  • Across all five heat-periods of 2022, adjusting for registration delays, the estimated total excess mortality (excluding coronavirus (COVID-19)) in England was 2,803 for the most vulnerable age group (those aged 65 years and over), the highest number since the introduction of the Heatwave plan for England in 2004.
  • During the peak of the second heat-period, 17 to 20 July, the estimated total excess mortality (excluding COVID-19) was 1,012 excess deaths over a period of 4 days (253 excess deaths per day) for those aged 65 years and over.
  • The heat-period with the highest excess mortality (excluding COVID-19) in those 65 years and over was the fourth heat-period, 8 to 17 August, with 1,458 excess deaths over a period of 10 days (146 excess deaths per day).

Sarah Caul, Head of Mortality Analysis at the ONS, said:

“During the UK summer of record-breaking temperatures, there was an increase in deaths. However, these spikes around the hottest days were followed by periods of below average mortality. This is likely to be a result of short-term mortality displacement, especially among older age groups, where people died a few days or weeks earlier than expected. This trend is consistent with what we have seen in previous summers with heatwave periods.

“It is also the case that despite peaks in mortality during heatwaves, the majority of days in the winter period (December to March) show a higher number of deaths than we see during summer.”

Isabel Oliver, Chief Scientific Officer at the UKHSA said:

“These estimates show clearly that high temperatures can be a fast and unsuspecting killer for those who are vulnerable. Higher excess deaths occurred during the hottest days this year and a warming climate means we must adapt to living safely with hotter summers in the future.

“Prolonged periods of hot weather are a particular risk for elderly people, those with heart and lung conditions or people who are unable to keep themselves cool such as people with learning disabilities and Alzheimer’s disease.”

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Note to editors

  • In this article ONS and UKHSA have used the UKHSA definition of a heat-period which is: 
  • In addition, the preceding and subsequent days to those identified using the definitions above were included as part of the heat-period in the analyses.
  • The UKHSA heat-period definition differs from the UK heatwave definition used by the Met Office.  

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