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Cooling at a techno parade in Berlin at the beginning of July: Dangerous heat

Photo: Christoph Soeder / dpa

In Germany, around 3100 people have died this summer as a result of heat. This is the result of a preliminary report by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). According to the study, more than one in two heat deaths this summer was at least 85 years old.

The final report is due to be published in the autumn, but is likely to differ only in details from the preliminary balance. "The order of magnitude should not change," said a spokeswoman for the RKI of the "Rheinische Post".

Fewer heat-related deaths than in the previous year

According to the RKI report, in absolute terms, more women than men die as a result of high temperatures. The reason for this, however, is the high proportion of women among older people, according to the press release.

This means that the number of deaths has fallen compared to the previous year. In 2022, the RKI recorded 4500 heat-related deaths. "In connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, mortality was unusually high in the summer of 2022," the RKI writes in its report.

Since 2013, the years 2018, 2019 and 2015 have reached the highest levels with over 6000 heat-related deaths each. In 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2021, the estimated number of heat-related deaths was between about 1000 and about 1700 and is thus significantly lower. "These differences can be attributed to the different heat episodes," the report says.

The death certificate rarely mentions "heat" as the cause of death

The RKI points out that the published figures are an estimate that combines mortality data from the Federal Statistical Office and temperature measurements from the German Weather Service. This is due to the fact that only in a few cases does the effect of heat lead directly to death, such as heat stroke. In most cases, heat is an exacerbating factor for pre-existing conditions and is therefore not noted on the death certificate as the cause of death. So the RKI uses statistical methods to estimate the extent of heat-related deaths.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) had presented a heat protection plan at the end of July and set the goal of pushing the number of heat deaths below 4000,<> this year.

Among other things, the plan provides for greater awareness of the dangers posed by heat, indications of protective measures and warnings in the event of extreme heat. According to Lauterbach, posters from the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) with tips on how to behave in the heat are to be installed in as many medical practices and care facilities as possible in the future.