Heat-related deaths could triple in next 30 years, research suggests

27 July 2021, 07:26

There could be three times as many heat-related deaths by 2050.
There could be three times as many heat-related deaths by 2050. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Heat-related deaths could almost triple over the next 30 years, the British Red Cross has warned.

A report from the charity - called Feeling The Heat - looked at how prepared the UK is for rising temperatures as well as how aware people were of the risks.

It said: "The average length of warm spells have more than doubled in length in the last few decades, and by 2050 the UK will be 50 per cent more likely to experience hot summers, while heat-related deaths could more than triple, to around 7,000 per year."

It comes after the UK recently experienced its first extreme heat warnings from the Met Office, due to one of many heatwaves in recent months.

Read more: Swimmers urged to be careful in open water as 17 people die amid UK heatwave

Findings from the charity's research - which was a survey of 2,000 UK adults in June 2021 - revealed that the risks heatwaves can cause are not matched by the level of public concern, with 26 per cent of respondents seeing heatwaves as a good thing.

Despite being at more risk, 57 per cent of those aged 75 and over said they did not consider themselves vulnerable to the impact of heatwaves.

However, over a third believed heatwaves would be a potential problem in the future.

In general, the majority of UK adults said they had experienced at least one adverse effect of hot weather, most commonly headaches, dizziness or feeling faint, or heat rash, but 40 per cent had never seen information on how to protect themselves during the hot weather.

Read more: Woman dies on Devon beach after being pulled from sea on hottest day of year

Extreme weather in the UK will worsen due to climate change

The report said that there were a record 2,556 excess deaths in England during the heatwaves of August 2020, as well as significant disruption.

For example, a severe water shortage led to more than 300 households in West Sussex having no water for five days.

An estimated five million staff days were lost too, costing the UK economy around £770 million.

Matthew Killick, director of crisis response and community resilience at British Red Cross, explained that heatwaves "do not need to be deadly".

"Despite what many think, UK heatwaves can impact us all," he said.

"Every year people struggle with their health and wellbeing as a result, health and care services see an increase in demand, transport is interrupted, employers experience reduced productivity, and they can even be life threatening.

"But heatwaves don't need to be deadly. From checking on your neighbours to providing first aid, simple early actions can keep you, your family and friends safe and well during hot weather.

"We are calling on all UK governments to ensure people most vulnerable to heat risk are able to access the targeted information, advice and support they need to take action and stay safe and healthy."