Deaths from cold vastly outnumber deaths from heat in Europe

Lancet study finds 203,620 deaths due to cold weather, 20,173 deaths due to warm weather in 2019

By Pierre Masselot, et al., Lancet, Volume 7, Issue 4, April 2023

Heat and cold are established environmental risk factors for human health. However, mapping the related health burden is a difficult task due to the complexity of the associations and the differences in vulnerability and demographic distributions. In this study, we did a comprehensive mortality impact assessment due to heat and cold in European urban areas, considering geographical differences and age-specific risks.


We included urban areas across Europe between Jan. 1, 2000, and Dec. 12, 2019, using the Urban Audit dataset of Eurostat and adults aged 20 years and older living in these areas. Data were extracted from Eurostat, the Multi-country Multi-city Collaborative Research Network, Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, and Copernicus.

We applied a three-stage method to estimate risks of temperature continuously across the age and space dimensions, identifying patterns of vulnerability on the basis of city-specific characteristics and demographic structures.

These risks were used to derive minimum mortality temperatures and related percentiles and raw and standardized excess mortality rates for heat and cold aggregated at various geographical levels.

Country-level cold (in blue) and heat (in red) annual raw death rates broken down by age group


Across the 854 urban areas in Europe, we estimated an annual excess of 203,620 deaths attributed to cold and 20,173 attributed to heat. These corresponded to age-standardized rates of 129 cold deaths and 13 heat deaths per 100,000 person-years.

Results differed across Europe and age groups, with the highest effects in eastern European cities for both cold and heat.

The Lancet study is available by clicking here.

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