The health effects of hotter summers and heat waves in the population of the United Kingdom: A review of the evidence

Katherine Arbuthnott*, Shakoor Hajat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


It is widely acknowledged that the climate is warming globally and within the UK. In this paper, studies which assess the direct impact of current increased temperatures and heat-waves on health and those which project future health impacts of heat under different climate change scenarios in the UK are reviewed. This review finds that all UK studies demonstrate an increase in heat-related mortality occurring at temperatures above threshold values, with respiratory deaths being more sensitive to heat than deaths from cardiovascular disease (although the burden from cardiovascular deaths is greater in absolute terms). The relationship between heat and other health outcomes such as hospital admissions, myocardial infarctions and birth outcomes is less consistent. We highlight the main populations who are vulnerable to heat. Within the UK, these are older populations, those with certain co-morbidities and those living in Greater London, the South East and Eastern regions. In all assessments of heat-related impacts using different climate change scenarios, deaths are expected to increase due to hotter temperatures, with some studies demonstrating that an increase in the elderly population will also amplify burdens. However, key gaps in knowledge are found in relation to how urbanisation and population adaptation to heat will affect health impacts, and in relation to current and future strategies for effective, sustainable and equitable adaptation to heat. These and other key gaps in knowledge, both in terms of research needs and knowledge required to make sound public- health policy, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This review was funded under the “Living With Environmental Change (LWEC)” programme. KA is supported by the Public Health England PhD studentship scheme. The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments, which have improved this review article substantially and Sotiris Vardoulakis and Clare Heaviside for their very helpful comments on a draft of the manuscript. This paper is a reduced version of a technical paper provided in support of a Health Report Card produced for the UK Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) Network.

Funding Information:
Publication of this article was funded by the UK Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) Network. LWEC was succeeded in 2016 by the Research and Innovation for our Dynamic Environment (RIDE) Forum ( research/partnerships/ride/).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).

Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Heat
  • Heat-wave
  • Morbidity
  • Mortality
  • Summer
  • Temperature
  • United Kingdom


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