the summer of 2022 it was the hottest already recorded in Europe and was characterized by an intense series of heat waves that broke temperature records, droughts and forest fires.
Although Eurostat – the European statistics office – has already reported an unusual excess of mortality for these dates, until now the mortality fraction has not been quantified. attributable to heatas reported by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), in the presentation of a recent study, in collaboration with the French National Institute for Health and Medicine Research (insert).
In this analysis, carried out by ISGlobal —a center supported by Fundación la Caixa— and published in the magazine natural medicineit is calculated that between May 30 and September 4, 2022 occurred 61,672 deaths attributable to heat.
The research team obtained temperature and mortality data for the period 2015-2022 in 823 regions in 35 European countries, whose total population represents more than 543 million people. These data were used to estimate epidemiological models and predict mortality attributable to temperatures for each region and week of the summer period.
He summer 2022 It was a season without respite in terms of heat, in the words of the authors themselves. Records show that temperatures were above average during every week of the summer period.
The biggest thermal anomaly was recorded during the summer heat, from mid-July to mid-August. According to the researchers, this coincidence increased mortality from heat, causing 38,881 deaths between July 11 and August 14. In this period of just over a month there was an intense pan-European heat wavebetween 18 and 24 July, to which a total of 11,637 deaths are attributed.
most affected countries
In absolute terms, the country with highest number of deaths attributable to the heat during the summer of 2022 was Italywith a total of 18,010 deaths, followed by Spain (with 11,324 deaths) and Germany (with 8,173).
If the data is sorted based on the mortality rate by the heat, the country that leads the list is Italywith 295 deaths per million, followed by Greece (280), Spain (237) and Portugal (211). The European average was estimated at 114 deaths per million.
The authors provide ‘infograms’ with figures of heat-related mortality in the summer of 2022 for the 35 countries analysed, including variations between women and men, as well as the Mortality attributable to heat in Spainwith details of each province.
On the other hand, if only the temperature increasethe country that registered a higher value was Francewith +2.43 ºC above the average values for the period 1991-2020, followed by Swiss (+2.30ºC), Italy (+2.28ºC), Hungary (+2.13ºC) and Spain (+2.11ºC).
Mortality 63% higher in women
The work included an analysis by age and sex, showing a very sharp increase of mortality in older age groups And, especially in women. Thus, it is estimated that there were 4,822 deaths among those under 65 years of age, 9,226 deaths between 65 and 79 years of age, and 36,848 among those over 79 years of age.
As for the distinction by gender, the data suggest that mortality early attributable to the heat was a 63% higher in women than in men, with a total of 35,406 premature deaths (145 deaths per million), compared to an estimated 21,667 in men (93 deaths per million).
This greater vulnerability of women to heat is observed in the population as a whole and, mainly, in over 80 years, where the mortality rate is 27% higher than that of men. On the other hand, the male mortality rate is 41% higher in those under 65 years of age and 13% higher between 65 and 79 years of age.
Lessons from the 2003 heat wave
To date, the summer with the highest mortality records in Europe has been that of the year 2003in which an excess mortality of more than 70,000 deaths.
“The summer of 2003 was an exceptionally rare event, even taking into account the anthropogenic warming observed so far. This exceptional character revealed the lack of prevention plans and the fragility of health systems to deal with climate-related emergencies, something that, to some extent, tried to be corrected in later years”, he explains. Joan Ballester Claramuntfirst author of the study and researcher at ISGlobal, scholarship holder of European Research Council.
“On the other hand, the temperatures recorded in the summer of 2022 cannot be considered exceptional, in the sense that could have predicted following the temperature series of previous years, and which show that during the last decade the heating accelerated”, indicates ballester.
“The fact that in the summer of 2022 more than 61,600 people died from heatstroke in Europe, despite the fact that, unlike in 2003, many countries already had active prevention plans, suggests that the adaptation strategies that we currently have may still be insufficient”, he says. Hicham Achebakco-author and researcher at Inserm and ISGlobal.
“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 differences between European countries and regions, as well as age and gender differences, which currently mark differences in vulnerability. heat,” adds Achebak.
Europe is the continent that is experiencing the fastest warming, according to a recent study UN report. Since the 1980s, the temperature in Europe has increased twice the global average temperature.
Estimates made by the team suggest that, in the absence of an effective adaptive response, the continent will face an average of more than 68,000 premature deaths every summer by 2030 and over 94,000 by 2040.
The study was carried out within the framework of the project EARLY ADAPTATIONfunded by the European Research Council, and to study how populations are adapting to the challenges of public health triggered by climate change.
Heat deaths in Europe
The ten European countries with the highest death rate (deaths per million) attributable to heat in the summer of 2022.
The ten European countries with the highest number of deaths attributable to heat in the summer of 2022.
Balester, J. and others “Heat-related mortality in Europe during the summer of 2022”. natural medicine (2023)