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Excess winter deaths in 32 European countries: a critical review of methods


This article reviews historical data on cold-related deaths in Europe (1980–2013). It outlines the classic ‘excess winter deaths’ methodology used to estimate cold-related mortality and explores the inaccuracies that are associated with this generic estimation method: it yields relatively accurate estimates of the actual public health impacts of cold temperatures in only 2 of 30 European countries. This is an issue of concern, given the prominent role of excess winter deaths monitoring in public health policymaking and research. An alternative estimation method is proposed, based on heating degree days, which could yield more accurate estimations of the public health implications of cold weather in Europe, and how these vary across different countries.