Scientists from Imperial College London predict rising summer temperatures will have a greater impact on the Health of Londoners than anywhere else in the country.
Researchers looked at temperature records and death rates for 2001 to 2010 to find out which districts in England and Wales experience the biggest effects from warm temperatures.
In the most vulnerable districts, in London and the southeast, the odds of dying from heart or lung causes increased by more than 10 per cent for every 1C rise in temperature.
Districts in the far north were much more resilient, seeing no increase in deaths at equivalent temperatures.
– Dr James Bennett, Imperial College London
It’s well known that warm weather can increase the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory deaths, especially in elderly people. Climate change is expected to raise average temperatures and increase temperature variability, so we can expect it to have effects on mortality even in countries like the UK with a temperate climate.
Across England and Wales as a whole, a summer that is 2C warmer than average would be expected to cause around 1,550 extra deaths, the study found.
Just over half would be in people aged over 85, and 62 per cent would be in women.
The effects of warm temperature were similar in urban and rural districts. The most vulnerable districts included deprived districts in London such as Hackney and Tower Hamlets, with the odds of dying more than doubling on very hot days like those of August 2003.
According to the man who led the study, Professor Majid Ezzati, from Imperial College London, more research into why there are regional differences is now required.
– Professor Majid Ezzati, Public Health, Imperial College London
The reasons for the uneven distribution of deaths in warm weather need to be studied. It might be due to more vulnerable individuals being concentrated in some areas, or it might be related to differences at the community level, like quality of healthcare, that require government action.
We might expect that people in areas that tend to be warmer would be more resilient, because they adapt by installing air conditioning for example. These results show that this isn’t the case in England and Wales.