Heatwave: nearly 400 excess deaths in August

2023 the hottest year in history and that of climate

Almost 400 more deaths than normal were recorded in France during the heatwave which hit 52 departments from August 11 to 26, according to estimates from the French Public Health agency published this Wednesday, September 13, a report which remains to be consolidated. That is to say an increase of “5.4%” in deaths from all causes during this heat wave in the departments concerned, the health agency said in a press release. She specifies that people aged at least 75 constitute the age group most affected.

A phenomenon whose frequency is amplified by global warming, a heatwave is defined by a period of prolonged heat without interruption for several days. The impacts on mortality are heterogeneous depending on the departments due in particular to the duration (number of days in a heatwave) and the intensity (temperatures) of the episode, but also the period of occurrence and the type of population affected.

During the period, the regions where departmental excesses are the highest are Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes with 169 excess deaths (+ 7.3%) and Nouvelle-Aquitaine with 120 excess deaths (+ 9.5%). No fatal work accident was notified by the General Directorate of Labor to Public Health France for this episode, the health agency further specifies. These estimates are still preliminary in several respects. They are based, for example, on mortality data which is not yet complete.

Heat waves in France

© / afp.com/Sylvie HUSSON

Above all, they do not accurately assess deaths directly due to heatwaves. For the moment, they only allow us to indicate to what extent all deaths exceeded normal during this period. In the fall, Public Health France will publish a consolidated assessment of the health impact of the various heatwaves and more generally of the exposure of the French population to extreme heat throughout the summer period of 2023.