The UK recorded 3,200 more deaths than the five-year average during this year’s summer heatwaves, according to new data.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Friday showed that an extra 3,271 fatalities were reported during an extended period of extreme heat in Britain throughout June, July and August.
Temperatures surpassed 40C for the first time in the UK for the first time on July 19, with Londoners urged to stay inside and work from home. The extreme heat prompted several large wildfires in the capital, with the London Fire Brigade experiencing their busiest day since the Second World War.
There were five heat-periods – defined as a day in which a Level 3 Heat alert is issued - in total during the summer, the ONS said. During the period, there were 56,303 deaths in England and Wales – around 6.2 per cent above the five-year average.
The ONS said that the largest number of excess deaths had occurred between July 10 and 25, the most extreme of the summer heatwaves. There were 2,227 excess deaths in this timeframe – 10.4 per cent above average.
From July 17 to 20, when temperatures were highest, there were an estimated 1,012 excess deaths in those aged over 65.
The figures suggest that deaths among elderly and vulnerable people were “brought forward” by the heat and took place earlier than would otherwise have been the case, the ONS said.
They also noted that each heat-period peak was followed by a fall in deaths to below the average.
The estimated excess mortality was 2,803 for over-65s, which is the highest number since the 2004 heatwave plan for England was introduced.
There were 5,017 deaths above average among people aged 70 and over across the five heat periods, compared with 1,749 deaths below average in those aged below 70.
Isabel Oliver, Chief Scientific Officer at the UKHSA said: “These estimates show clearly that high temperatures can lead to premature death 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.’’