Excess mortality from heat – the heat summer is already causing an excessive number of deaths – news
From mid-June, almost 1,000 older people died more than the long-term average. Corona could play a part in that.
The heat records fell one after the other this summer: never before was the zero degree limit as high as at the end of July. As early as June, the thermometer showed a record high of 36.9°C. And there were already as many hot days with temperatures of over 30°C in Basel and Geneva as in other hot summers in total.
Martin Röösli is not surprised that more people from the group of over 65-year-olds have died since mid-June. “But what surprises me is the extent of this excess mortality. Within six weeks, almost a thousand more people died than was statistically expected,” says the professor at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel.
What surprised us is the extent of this excess mortality.
Hot summer under the magnifying glass
Röösli has observed the past hot summers and found that the heat waves from 2015 to 2019 caused less excess mortality at similar temperatures, which was due to effective protective measures after the hot summer of 2003.
Such measures by the authorities can include heat warnings to the population, but also recommendations for nursing staff in retirement homes on how to protect particularly vulnerable residents from the consequences of overheating.
Early first heat wave
But now in the summer of 2022, these measures are no longer having the same effect, as the significantly higher excess mortality suggests. According to Röösli, one reason could be that the very first heat wave started in mid-June and therefore very early: Then the effects are greater because the population has not yet properly gotten used to the heat. This phenomenon is known from other hot summers.
Early first heat waves have a greater impact because the population is not yet used to the heat.
And then there is the corona pandemic. In the months of June and July, a good 160 people died with a confirmed corona infection, which accounted for around 15 percent of all deaths. The circulating omicron variants also contribute only a small part to the current excess mortality.
Still weak after Corona?
At best, the pandemic has a greater impact, notes environmental epidemiologist Röösli. Especially with Covid, more and more studies have shown that even after a moderate course of the disease, the risk of cardiovascular disease is still there for a long time: “There may be an interaction here, that the heat formerly suffered from Corona had worse contracts, and that affects in particular older people.”
Even after a moderate course of Covid, the risk of cardiovascular disease is still increased for a long time.
In addition, over the past two and a half years, several thousand people have been hospitalized due to an infection with the corona virus. Those being cared for in the intensive care unit often reported long-term desired effects on various organs. You may now be particularly sensitive to heat.
The Federal Statistical Office will only be able to present the more precise causes behind the current deaths in one to two and a half years. By then it will also be clear whether August will probably claim further heat deaths. Europe-wide monitoring shows that excess mortality in many countries with intense heat waves is increasing, sometimes sharply.
Swiss TPH study: Health effects of heat in Switzerland (Martina S. Ragettli, Martin Röösli)