Big Increase in Excess Winter Deaths
Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that there were 43,900 excess winter deaths in 2014/15, the biggest yearly increase since records were first kept 16 years ago. The average temperature last winter was 1.4 oc lower than the previous year, with the majority of deaths occurring in people aged 75 and over.
Respiratory diseases were the cause of death in over a third of cases, while Alzheimer’s disease and dementia were responsible for 9,100 deaths, the highest level recorded. Some experts believe that last year’s flu strain may have had a greater impact than in previous years, explaining some of the increase.
Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age, still believes that a large number of deaths that occur in the winter months are preventable. “Countries like Finland and Germany have significantly lower levels of excess winter deaths, despite having colder winters than us,” she told the Daily Telegraph. “The uncomfortable truth is that, as a country, we not very good at coping with winter and some of these deaths are preventable. This isn’t just a story about cold weather; it’s a story of cold, damp and poorly insulated homes and pensioners who can’t afford to pay heating bills.”
The number of excess winter deaths was highest in the South West with the lowest figures occurring in Yorkshire, The Humber and Wales. Public Health England released the Cold Weather Plan for England in October and RIAMS subscribers can read a guidance note on the subject HERE.