It is an “invisible burden” on which researchers from Public Health France have looked. According to a study published on Tuesday, heat waves cost France between 22 and 37 billion euros from 2015 to 2020 due to deaths, medical costs and loss of well-being. During floods or storms, insurers quickly come into play to quantify the damage, already clearly visible to the naked eye on television images.
But the impacts of heatwaves, extreme events yet the deadliest, “are rarely considered from an economic angle”, estimates the study published Tuesday, which also notes a “weak” perception of this risk, the most obvious sign of global warming. planet.
Nearly 10,000 deaths recorded
The researchers therefore looked at the heat waves that affected mainland France from 2015 to 2020, extreme heat episodes that caused a total of nearly 10,000 deaths. In six years, all metropolitan departments except three (Côte d’Armor, Creuse and Finistère) have suffered at least one heat wave, for a cumulative total of 2,716 daily alerts (orange or red vigilance from Météo-France), i.e. 29 , 2 days on average per department.
Whatever calculation method is adopted, “the intangible costs linked to premature mortality represent the majority share, highlighting an underestimated and largely invisible societal burden”. This represents 30.2 billion euros using a method based on the number of deaths and 15.9 billion on that based on the number of years of life lost, says the study, specifying that it used values conventionally. used to quantify mortality linked to air pollution.
Loss of well-being and excessive recourse to care
Then comes the “loss of well-being”, estimated at 6.3 billion euros. However, it was only calculated in 2019 and 2020, the only years to have experienced red vigilance accompanied by recommendations to avoid travel and physical activity, fatigue or reduced cognitive abilities.
The excess of recourse to care (going to the emergency room, SOS Médecins, hospitalizations) represents only a small part of the total, with 31 million euros. More than a third of this amount was observed in a single year, 2019, with peaks in emergencies, especially among young people.
814 euros per inhabitant
Compared to the size of the exposed population, the economic impact of heat waves since 2015 “has averaged between 72 euros per inhabitant in 2017 and 224 euros per inhabitant in 2020, for a total over the period of 814 euros per inhabitant” .
“Despite the implementation of a prevention plan since 2004, heat waves continue to have a strong health and economic impact in France”, insists Public Health France, stressing the exacerbation of the frequency, duration, intensity and geographic extent of these heat waves. And faced with a further expected worsening, the results underline “the urgency of action measures to strengthen adaptation to heat waves”, argues the study.