400 extra deaths during last heatwave in the Netherlands
According to preliminary figures from Statistics Netherlands (CBS), 2.964 people in the Netherlands died during the week of July’s recording-breaking heatwave: that’s 400 people more than average during a summer week.
More elderly people dying in the Netherlands
The deaths occurred between July 22 and 28 and effected the elderly, especially and those in the east of the Netherlands where the heatwave lasted longer. Last year, in the same week, there were 200 fewer deaths. The July heatwave was short - only lasting six days, but was extremely intense, hence the higher death figures. Temperatures during that week rose above a sweltering 40C.
The majority who passed away were aged 80 or above, totalling 1.687 during the heatwave week; this is 300 more than during the average summer week. There are, however, simply more older people in the country now, and therefore, the number of extra deaths is relatively small. In the age groups 65 to 80 and 0 to 65, there were fewer deaths relatively compared to the same period in previous years.
Why can’t old people handle the heat?
So, why is it that the elderly are more often than not the victims of the heat? Year in and year out, a familiar trend occurs, according to professor of geriatric medicine Marcel Olde Rikkert, this is namely that emergency admissions to hospital rise after a few days of high temperatures.
Why is this? Well, he explains that the elderly often don’t realise that they are thirsty, their kidneys don’t work as well, and they take a relatively large amount of medicine. Medicine use, in particular, can cause significant problems when the temperature rises. Many elderly people take diuretics, for example. In hot weather, they can cause one to lose too much water and become dehydrated.