Summer Deaths Could Increase with Higher Temps, UK Study Says

sunrise on a beach
Heat waves take about 650 lives each year in the U.S. (Image credit: © Cjwhitewine |

People living in southern England could see about 1,500 additional deaths if there is a 4-degree-Fahrenheit (2-degrees-Celsius) increase in the summer temperature there, while those living in the north of the country may not see an increase in deaths due to a warmer climate, a new study finds.

Researchers looked at number of heat-related deaths in 376 districts of England and Wales over the past decade to find what the health effects of climate change might be based on residents' geographical locations.

They found for people living in London and southeast England, where residents are most vulnerable to the negative effects of temperature, the risk of dying from heart or respiratory problems increased by more than 10 percent for every 1.8-degree-Fahrenheit (1-degree-Celsius) increase in temperature during the summer months between 2001 and 2010. [Top 10 Surprising Results of Global Warming]

This would mean an estimated 1,550 additional deaths in a single summer that is warmer by 4 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), according to the study published today (March 23) in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Results also showed that people living in the least vulnerable districts, in the far north of the country, were not affected by the rise in temperature. The researchers didn't find a difference in the effects of temperature rise between rural and urban areas.

Extremely hot summer days can cause hyperthermia and increase the core body temperature, which may damage the brain and other organs. Infants, children and elderly people, as well as people with heart problems are at increased risk of heat-related medical problems or death.

Heat-related death risk also depends on living location, socio-economic status, age and gender, and varies between countries. In the United States, about 650 people die from heat waves every year, whereas death tolls up to 2,000 have been recorded in England.

The new findings are in line with several studies that have also shown that an increasing number of deaths will be expected if the rise in average global temperature continues.

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Bahar Gholipour
Staff Writer
Bahar Gholipour is a staff reporter for Live Science covering neuroscience, odd medical cases and all things health. She holds a Master of Science degree in neuroscience from the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris, and has done graduate-level work in science journalism at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She has worked as a research assistant at the Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives at ENS.