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Research shows that in parts of Britain, more people died from hot or cold weather than from COVID-19




Research shows that in parts of Britain, more people died from hot or cold weather than from COVID-19

Maps of the ratio of temperature-related deaths to COVID-19 deaths during extreme temperature events. Panel a shows regional ratios for the entire study period, i.e. January 30, 2020 to December 31, 2022. Panel b shows regional ratios on 70 heat wave days (10 heat waves in total) during the study period. Heat waves are defined according to the UKHSA definition. Panel c shows regional relationships on 70 cold wave days (out of a total of 8 cold wave days) during the study period. Cold snaps are defined as days when a Level 3 Cold Health Alert has been issued for a region of England. Credit: Nature communication (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-024-48207-2

Research has shown that extreme weather events, exacerbated by climate change, now pose a major national threat to public health.

The study, led by the University of Bristol and published today Nature communicationshowed how the death toll from temperature hazards exceeded the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the south-west region of England, when Britain was in the grip of the pandemic.

Lead author Dr. Eunice Lo, Research Fellow in Climate Change and Health at the university’s Cabot Institute for the Environment and the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research, said: “The statistics are stark and illustrate just how high the health burden of bad weather is in the In the current climate, I expected higher than normal death rates in Britain as the country also experienced a record heatwave during the peak of the pandemic, but the scale of the increases is surprising and worrying.”

The researchers took action after Sir Patrick Vallance, the former chief scientific adviser to the British government, commented: COP26 that the climate crisis was a much bigger problem than COVID-19, which without immediate changes would prove more fatal.

Their findings clearly prove such claims, with analysis showing that temperature-related mortality in South West England exceeded COVID-19 mortality by 8% between 2020 and 2022. Also in London, temperature-related deaths were only a quarter fewer than deaths from COVID-19. a far cry from a third less (58%) in the East Midlands over the same period.

Dr. Lo said: “The pandemic rightly generated enormous media attention with the spotlight on daily briefings announcing the latest death toll and public health interventions. Although many, and in some parts of the country more, people died from high and low temperatures, this remained largely under the radar. Ironically, the record temperatures of over 40 degrees were associated with positive news about people enjoying the sun, perhaps reflecting a general lack of awareness of how harmful excess heat can be.

The research highlighted how the coinciding crises associated with COVID-19, combined with a heat wave or conversely an extreme cold wave, put unprecedented pressure on healthcare systems, potentially increasing avoidable loss of life.

Findings showed that the combined number of deaths from extreme temperatures and COVID-19 between 2020 and 2022 was at least twice as high as the previous decade, depending on the region.

Dr. Lo said: “The figures strongly demonstrate how negative impacts are exacerbated when major health and weather-related events occur at the same time. For example, extreme cold during an outbreak of an unexpected disease puts enormous pressure on the availability of hospital beds. This study therefore underlines how Britain must be better prepared for such eventualities, which are likely to coincide more often in the future with the growing specter of a changing climate and other global health threats.”

Sir Patrick Vallance discussed whether it was possible to compare the relative health impacts of COVID-19 and climate change with Prof. Phil Taylor, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, and Dann Mitchell, Professor of Climate Science at the University of Bristol at COP26, organized through Glasgow in 2021.

Prof. Mitchell and Dr. Lo set out to analyze relevant statistics to better understand the comparative health impacts. They wrote a letter to Sir Patrick sharing the findings and were invited to present them at the Natural History Museum.

Co-author Prof. Dann Mitchell said: “Climate change is not just an environmental problem; it is a constant, underlying stressor that magnifies the impact of other global crises, including pandemics, wars and economic instability. Our research highlights that during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the compound effects of extreme temperatures led to significant mortality burdens in Britain.

“This was probably much greater in other less developed countries. Our evidence illustrates how climate change can intersect with and exacerbate other crises, creating a multiplier effect that could strain healthcare systems, destabilize economies and increase social tensions. it is imperative to integrate climate resilience into global health, economic and security policies.”

More information:
YT Eunice Lo et al, Composite mortality effects due to extreme temperatures and the COVID-19 pandemic, Nature communication (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-024-48207-2

Provided by the University of Bristol

Quote: Study shows more people died in parts of Britain from hot or cold weather than COVID-19 (2024, May 23) retrieved May 24, 2024 from -people-died-warm-cold.html

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