Heatwaves and Covid-19: Excess mortality observed during the summer of 2022


The summer of 2022 will have been the second hottest summer ever recorded in France. The consequences are serious: the excess mortality is estimated at more than 10,000 deaths. This is the assessment of the summer in France, with two major culprits: a persistent Covid epidemic and, above all, repeated heat waves which testify to the deadly effects of global warming.

During the second hottest summer since 1900, there were 10,420 excess deaths between June 1 and September 15, according to an estimate given on Monday November 21 by the French public health agency (SpF) in a report “Heat wave and health”.

Part of the excess deaths is concentrated in the three heat wave episodes: 2,816 recorded over these periods alone.

What does excess mortality mean? This is the number of deaths observed compared to that expected, established by comparing it to the five previous summers/periods, and adjusted according to demographic aging.

The toll of excess mortality during the heat waves of 2022 is “the largest since 2003”, a memorable year for its heat wave of three weeks in a row which had caused 15,000 deaths, underlined SpF. Following this, a national heat wave plan was created.

Part of the excess mortality for the whole of summer 2022 (from June 1 to September 15) is also “probably due to exposure to high heat” below “heat wave alert thresholds”. We will have to wait until early 2023 to have a precise estimate of their specific role.

Three heat waves and Covid-19

If this summer was especially hot and dry, it was also marked by an upsurge in Covid.

Difficult to separate the two. “There is a complex interaction”, summed up during a press briefing Guillaume Boulanger, head of the “Quality of living and working environments and population health” unit at SpF. “Covid-19 may have increased vulnerability to heat for some people”, and vice versa.

Other elements, such as road accidents or drownings, may have influenced “but marginally” the excess mortality.

During a summer with multiple manifestations of global warming, France notably went through three “intense and remarkable” heat waves: one in June, with unprecedented precocity, one in July, the longest and which affected two thirds of the French, one last in August.

Those aged 75 and over were the most affected by excess mortality during these periods: one in six excess deaths concerned this age group (2,272 excess deaths, +20.2%).

Geographically, too, the effects have been uneven. Four regions, mainly in the south of France (Auvergne-RhĂ´ne-Alpes, New Aquitaine, Occitanie, Provence-Alpes CĂ´te d’Azur) accumulated nearly two-thirds of the excess national deaths during heat waves.

But three other regions have shown the highest proportions of excess mortality: Brittany, less acclimatized to heat waves because it has been little affected until this year, Ile-de-France, densely populated and urbanized, and the Grand-Est. .

The experienced human body

Seven fatal work accidents “possible heat-related” were also notified. Occurring mainly during an outdoor activity, including three in construction, they concerned men aged 39 to 54.

This assessment confirms that heat waves, the accumulation of which is an effect of global warming, are deadly and that the phenomenon is accelerating.

Over the last eight summers, heat waves have caused “more than 10,500 excess deaths” in France, observed Public Health France.

But even outside periods of heat waves, high temperatures test the human body, more so for populations at risk: children, the elderly, workers, athletes, etc.

From the beginning of June to mid-September, more than 17,000 visits to the emergency room and 3,500 SOS MĂ©decins consultations were thus recorded in mainland France.

Severe heat waves affected all of Europe this summer, both countries familiar with these phenomena, such as Spain, and others affected for the first time, such as the United Kingdom.

A first estimate published on November 7 by WHO Europe on the occasion of COP27, reported at least 15,000 deaths in Europe linked to heat waves in a summer also marked by droughts and fires. “Climate change is already killing us, but strong action today can prevent more deaths,” the institution said.

The European continent is the one that is warming the fastest, recording a rise in temperatures more than twice the global average over the past thirty years, according to the UN.


Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by www.challenges.fr.

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