High energy prices killed 68,000 Europeans this winter, study finds

High energy prices killed 68,000 Europeans this winter, study finds
Credit: Belga/Nicolas Maeterlinck

A recent study has estimated that up to 68,000 Europeans may have died as a result of high energy prices this winter - more than are believed to have died from Covid-19 over the same period.

According to a report published in the latest edition of The Economist, Europe's energy crisis - which was precipitated, or at least exacerbated, by Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine - provides further evidence that the conflict's deadly repercussions are not confined to Eastern Europe.

"High energy prices can cost lives," the study noted. "They discourage people from heating their homes properly, and living in cold conditions raises the risk of cardiac and respiratory problems."

It added: "Looking across countries reveals that those with the highest excess deaths typically experienced the biggest increases in fuel costs... If electricity last winter had cost the same as it did in 2020, our model would have expected 68,000 fewer deaths across Europe, a decline of 3.6%."

Government intervention saved lives

The cited number, although high, is less than that forecast by the same newspaper in November last year, when it predicted that a mild winter - which Europe was fortunate enough to experience - would cause at most 79,000 people to die.

The new study also found that the number of fatalities would have been greater had European governments not intervened with subsidies and price caps to protect Europe's citizenry.

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"Deaths in Europe might have been higher had governments not intervened in energy markets (although lower prices bid up demand, causing problems elsewhere in the world)," the study noted. It estimated that, in total, such government interventions saved approximately 26,600 lives.

However, the study also reported that, in spite of such interventions, the number of energy-induced deaths was greater than the 60,000 Europeans who are believed to have died from Covid-19 this winter.

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