Views from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Premature deaths from heatwave in England

Ben ArmstrongAn estimated 650 people may have died prematurely due to the current heatwave in England, according to research by Professor Ben Armstrong.

Figures produced by Prof Armstrong for the Times looked at the number of premature deaths attributable to heat in England for 6 -14 July 2013. The estimate was calculated using a model published in 2011 research from Prof Armstrong and colleagues that used region specific estimates of risk due to heat for the period 1993-2006*.

Prof Armstrong, an epidemiological statistician at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “Our previous studies have shown that as temperatures rise above a certain threshold, the risk of death increases. Using the same model, we estimate that the current heatwave has caused the premature deaths of 650 people.

“The excess is likely to have been overwhelmingly among the elderly, especially those over 75, some of which may have been among people who would have died just a few weeks later if there had been no heatwave.”

The estimated 650 deaths have a confidence interval of 540-760. Download Prof Armstrong’s full calculations (PDF, 168KB).

* B G Armstrong, Z Chalabi, B Fenn, S Hajat, S Kovats, A Milojevic, P Wilkinson. Association of mortality with high temperatures in a temperate climate: England and Wales. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. doi: 10.1136/jech.2009.093161

Image: Ben Armstrong being interviewed on television. Credit: BBC

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