Age UK responds to dramatic jump in excess winter deaths

By agency reporter
November 24, 2017

New figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that over the winter of 2016-17 there were 31,800 excess winter deaths among the over 65s from cold-related illness such as heart attacks and strokes, compared to 20,800 the previous year. One third of all the excess winter deaths reported were caused by respiratory diseases.

Responding to the new figures, Age UK's Charity Director Caroline Abrahams, said, "This dramatic jump in excess winter deaths in England is a terrible rebuke to anyone who thought it was 'job done' when it comes to keeping older people safe and sound through the winter. Remember that every one of these deaths was, by definition, preventable.

"Without further research it is impossible to nail down cause and effect but it is notable that last winter was not especially severe and that the statistics remained stable in Wales. A less than fully effective flu vaccine is likely to be one culprit, but it is also true that many older people live in poorly insulated homes and worry about turning up the heating during the cold months, increasing their risk of ill health.

"In addition, we know the NHS and social care are under unprecedented strain and the net result is that poorly older people, often living alone, are not always getting the effective, timely help they need to nip emerging health problems in the bud.

"We cannot run the risk of these figures getting even worse next year so the Government must take urgent action to address the underlying causes."

Some key points:

  • In the 2016 to 2017 winter period, there were an estimated 34,300 excess winter deaths (EWDs) in England and Wales, which represents an excess winter mortality (EWM) index of 20.9 per cent.
  • All of the English regions observed significant increases in the excess winter mortality index between winter periods 2015 to 2016 and 2016 to 2017, whereas excess winter mortality for Wales remained stable.
  • Although there has been an increase in EWDs, the number of EWDs does not exceed the peak that was observed in the 2014 to 2015 winter period; however, it was the second highest over the last five winter periods.
  • Females and the elderly were most affected by excess winter mortality in the 2016 to 2017 winter period.
  • Over one-third of all excess winter deaths were caused by respiratory diseases in England and Wales in 2016 to 2017.


* Age UK is urging older people to ensure they are doing everything possible to protect themselves against the cold weather. Anyone who is concerned about staying warm and healthy this winter should call the Charity's advice line free of charge on 0800 169 6565 or check its website for a free copy of its annually updated guide Winter wrapped up.

* Age UK


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