Climate change has led to more than half a million fewer deaths over the past 20 years, analysis from the Office for National Statistics suggests.

There has been a reduction in deaths caused by cold winters since 2001 in England and Wales, as the climate warms, while there was relatively little increase in deaths due to hotter weather, the figures show.

Temperature-related deaths, with the UK experiencing fewer cold days and more warm days, have fallen by 555,103 or an average of 27,755 deaths a year between 2001 and 2020.

Analysis which just looked at the four warmest months of the year, where the impact of global warming delivering more extreme heat would be seen, showed an increase of just 1,673 deaths or an average of 84 per year associated with more warm days over the 20-year period.

Sunbathers at New Brighton (Peter Byrne/PA)
Sunbathers at New Brighton (Peter Byrne/PA)

But there was a net increase in hospital admissions linked with warmer weather, of 72,121 over nine years from 2010 to 2018 in England, with injuries  the leading cause of ending up in hospital.

The ONS said previous research has linked warmer weather to injuries from outdoor activities, increased violence and mental health problems.

Direct harm from extreme heat is less common but it is likely to change over time, although in the UK’s temperate climate the impact is limited and appropriate policies and behaviour changes could mitigate much of the health risk from rising temperatures, the statistics body suggested.

The reduction in cold-related deaths could also reflect better housing and healthcare, the ONS said.