The Office for National Statistics has responded to exaggerated and inaccurate claims in the UK media that the recent heatwave has been responsible for an unusually high number of deaths.
Headlines in newspapers such as the Daily Express and the Mirror have blamed the heatwave for as many as 1000 deaths.
But in a blog post on their website, the ONS explained:
“The stories are based on provisional ONS weekly deaths figures which show 995 more deaths than the five-year average were registered in England and Wales during the seven weeks from 2nd June to 20th July.
However, it is impossible to tell from the data currently available to us how many people actually died during this period and how many of those deaths were as a result of the heat. The provisional weekly deaths figures we release are based on the date the deaths were registered – not the date each person died.”
Putting the record straight, the ONS reported that fewer deaths were actually registered during this seven-week period than during the same weeks of the last two years. The number of deaths registered was 65,439 in 2018 compared to 65,846 in 2017 and 65,728 in 2016.
The blog post emphasised that last winter had actually seen far more excess deaths and suggested that “flu and the very cold weather that some areas experienced [were] likely to be contributing factors.”
The graph below, produced by economist Richard Tol, shows that this year has followed a normal pattern of far fewer deaths in the summer months, but with significantly more than average excess deaths in the winter:
It is clear that the number of deaths this summer have been within a normal range, despite an increasing and more elderly population, and higher temperatures. Indeed, Public Health England, which produces regular excess mortality estimates based on a detailed epidemiological analysis of the weekly ONS data, has not observed a single instance of statistically significant excess mortality during summer 2018.
Climate alarmists have claimed that this year’s heatwave would see similar numbers of excess deaths as the 2003 and 2006 heatwaves, but the data we have thus far shows this year’s summer excess deaths are less than half than in 2003 and 2006.