The Guardian’s Excess Heat Deaths Numbers – The Population Has Expanded


The Guardian wants to tell us all that it’s appalling – more people have been dying in this recent hot weather. Something which has been noted by a correspondent of ours, S O’C. The noted point being that they’ve not – as far as we can tell at least – adjusted for the growth in the UK population.

The G:

Nearly 700 more deaths than average were recorded during the 15-day peak of the heatwave in June and July in England and Wales, according to official statistics.

Experts said that an increase in deaths is fully expected during heatwaves, but they cautioned that the provisional data requires further analysis to determine if the higher mortality is statistically significant for the summer months.

“The heatwave will have been associated with a number of excess deaths,” said Dr Adrian Boyle of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine. “The people most at risk in a heatwave are the frail elderly with heart or kidney problems.”

Cue the usual Damian Carrington rant about NHS spending and global warming. The thing is, we normally look at deaths – and births, causes of death and so on – as a rate, not a number. This is so that we don’t get confused by changes in the base population into thinking that something terrible is happening. And as far as we can tell that’s the bit that is done wrong here. The raw numbers are here. As S O’C tells us:

My back-of-a-fag-packet calculations are:

– about 600,000 people die in the UK a year
– so that’s about 34,500 people every 21 day period (they used a 3 week period – I checked the ONS data)
– an increase of 663 over that period is a 1.9% increase
– but the UK population is growing at 0.8% a year
– so by my calculations you’d *expect* the increase in deaths compared to the average over the previous 5 years to be 2.3%

They’ve just shown that the recent heatwave actually saved lives. Ooops!

(also, every week at the beginning of this year up to week 12, except for 2 weeks, we had 1 to 2 *thousand* extra deaths compared to the average over the same week the previous 5 years!)

But then, you know, The Guardian and numbers. A problem that always does get worse when we get to The Guardian trying to tell us about climate change.