Spain leads Europe with most heat-related deaths

by Lorraine Williamson
heat-related deaths

Climate change is not only causing damage to nature. The climate affects the lives and health of Europeans, according to The Lancet Countdown 2024 study. This reveals that the number of heat-related deaths in Europe has increased by 9% in 20 years.

According to the report, between 2003-2012 and 2013-2022, deaths related to warming in Europe increased by 17.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, from 50.8 in the first period to 68 in the second. Spain is the frontrunner in this respect, and the increase in mortality appears to be 1.5 times greater among women than among men.

Deaths rise by 11% in southern Europe

The increase in deaths was 9% in Europe as a whole and 11% in southern Europe, according to the same source. The number of days with a heatwave increased by 41%.

The increase varied from country to country. In Spain, the number rose by 39.9 more deaths per 100,000 inhabitants from 28 to 52.8 due to heat. Iceland went from -6.9 cases (more deaths from cold than from heat) to 5.9.

In addition, the report reveals that the negative impacts of climate change on health are not the same for everyone, neither in Europe nor in the rest of the world. They are often a reflection of socioeconomic inequalities or differences between the sexes.

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Differences between men and women

The study indicates the differences between 2003-2012 and 2013-2022. In this period, heat-related mortality rose by 13.9 per 100,000 inhabitants among men. Among women, there were up to 21.5 more deaths (1.54 times more). According to the data in the report, the number of heat-related deaths increased in women from 67 to 88.4 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, and in men from 42.1 to 55.9.

More risk hours and risk of illness

The study also shows that the risk hours for physical activity due to heat stress also increased between 1990-2022. It applies to both medium efforts (cycling or football) and heavy activities (rugby or mountain biking).

At the same time, climatic suitability for various climate-sensitive pathogens and disease carriers, such as glass worm, West Nile virus, dengue fever, malaria, leishmaniasis and ticks (which spread Lyme disease or encephalitis), has increased in Europe.

While the south of Europe is more affected by heat-related diseases, fires, food insecurity, drought, mosquito-borne diseases and leishmaniasis, the north is more affected by vibrio infections and tick bites.

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