Amidst all the talk of people dying in heatwaves, we need to remember that many, many more people die of the cold than the heat.
This is self evident in the UK, where the ONS routinely calculate excess winter deaths each year. They never count summer ones, as that is when death rates are lowest.
But what is maybe less well known is that the same applies even in hot countries, as this study published in the Lancet last year showed:
Cold weather is 20 times as deadly as hot weather, and it’s not the extreme low or high temperatures that cause the most deaths, according to a study published Wednesday.
The study — published in the British journal The Lancet — analyzed data on more than 74 million deaths in 13 countries between 1985 and 2012. Of those, 5.4 million deaths were related to cold, while 311,000 were related to heat.
Because the study included countries under different socio-economic backgrounds and with varying climates, it was representative of temperature-related deaths worldwide, the study said. The sharp distinction between heat- and cold-related deaths is because low temperatures cause more problems for the body’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems, it added.
“Public-health policies focus almost exclusively on minimizing the health consequences of heat waves,” Gasparrini said. “Our findings suggest that these measures need to be refocused and extended to take account of a whole range of effects associated with temperature.”
This report backs up a U.S. study last year from the National Center for Health Statistics, which found that cold kills more than twice as many Americans as heat.
Of course, we can’t get away without any mention of climate change, with the US Today article concluding:
The most recent study doesn’t project what its findings could mean for the future, particularly with climate change warming much of the globe over the next century.
“Extrapolating the results of this study for this purpose would only provide speculations not based on evidence,” Gasparrini said. However, he has received a grant from the United Kingdom to study that and hopes “we will answer this question soon,” he said.