Londoners at highest risk of death due to extreme heat

People sunbathe in Greenwich Park during the September heatwave (file picture)  (REUTERS)
People sunbathe in Greenwich Park during the September heatwave (file picture) (REUTERS)

Londoners are at the highest risk of death due to extreme heat of any region in England, according to new figures.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the capital had the highest mortality risk from weather of 29C or more.

The risk of death during hot weather in London was three times higher than when temperatures were between 9C and 22C, according to the ONS.

More than 2,200 people in London died due to heat between 2018 and 2022, the highest figure of any region in England. This was followed by the South East (1,900) and East of England (1,600).

The capital also saw the third highest number of cold related deaths (3,000) during the same time period.

London is at a particular risk of overheating due to what the “heat island effect”. This occurs when buildings, roads and pavements absorb the sun’s energy and expel it, making it difficult for people to cool down.

There were more than 50,000 heat related deaths between 1988 and 2022, the figures showed.

A total of 4,507 heat-related deaths occurred in 2022 alone, more than any other year in the analysis.

The mercury exceeded 40C in parts of the capital in July 2022 amid an unprecedented heatwave.

The London Fire Brigade experienced its busiest day since World War Two as wildfires tore through Wennington in south east London on July 19, destroying 19 homes.

Experts have warned that human-induced climate change will make extreme heatwaves more intense and more frequent. Britain's 10 warmest years on record have all occurred this century, according to the Met Office.

The ONS said their study showed “some indication that heat-related deaths have increased over recent years” but described the data as experimental and advised caution when making individual year-to-year comparisons.

“Any change in climate towards more extreme temperatures would likely lead to an increase in attributable deaths,” they said.

Temperatures in the UK this summer did not hit the highs of 2022, but a heatwave earlier this month also saw the first ever run of seven consecutive days above 30C in September.

Holly Holder, deputy director for homes at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “These new stats showing the growing health threat from rising temperatures confirm that it would be a grave mistake to slow down or roll back net-zero policies.

“Too many people live in homes that are too cold in winter and too warm in summer and feel helpless about making the improvements their property needs.

“Poorer older people are proportionally more likely to live in the most energy inefficient homes and are among the most likely to suffer a deterioration in their health during extreme weather.

“Climate change isn’t just something that is happening in the Antarctic or in very hot countries, it is impacting lives, and taking lives, here in the UK.

“Our housing is the oldest, and among the poorest quality in Western Europe and is not fit for purpose to face the challenges of more extreme temperatures and weather.”