Mortality displacement

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Mortality displacement denotes a temporal or temporary increase in the mortality rate (number of deaths) in a given population, usually attributable to environmental phenomena such as heat waves or cold spells.

During heat waves, for instance, there is usually an excess mortality rate in the population, affecting especially older adults and those who are sick. For some heat waves, however, there has also been observed a decrease in overall mortality during the subsequent weeks after a heat wave. Such short-term forward shift in mortality rate is also referred to as harvesting effect. The subsequent, compensatory reduction in mortality suggests that the heat wave had affected especially those whose health is already so compromised that they "would have died in the short term anyway".[1]

Death marches can also lead to a significant mortality displacement, such as in the Trail of Tears, the Armenian Genocide, and the Bataan death march, wherein the oldest, weakest, and sickest died first.


  1. ^ The Impact of Heat Waves and Cold Spells on Mortality Rates in the Dutch Population Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 109, Number 5, May 2001