Bitter conditions linked to deaths of additional 31,000 people last winter - a rise of almost one third

Figures follow a bitterly cold start to 2013

There was a 29 per cent increase in deaths linked to the cold weather last winter, new figures have revealed.

According to a report by the Office for National Statistics, “excess winter deaths” in England and Wales rose by almost a third compared with the previous year, with 31,000 additional deaths.

The figures follow a bitterly cold start to the year.

This March was the coldest since 1962, with an average monthly temperature of just 2.6C (36.7F).

In March, 1,582 people died every single day - 14 per cent higher than average, the report states.

“The increased level of excess winter mortality coincided with a decrease in the average winter temperature,” the report states.

“This suggests that the higher levels of excess winter mortality in 2012/13 may be due to a particularly prolonged winter with lower than average temperatures in February and March.

“The number of deaths peaked in the first week of January, which coincided with a peak in rates of influenza-like illness over the Christmas weeks. The mean number of daily deaths was higher than average for a prolonged period between February and April 2013.”

Pensioners were worse affected by the 31,000 additional deaths, which are calculated by comparing the death rates from the non-winter months to those that occur between December and March, the ONS report states.

Over-75s accounted for 25,600 winter-related deaths.

The ONS said that women over the age of 85 had the greatest number of excess winter deaths for all age groups. Last winter, there were 28.2 per cent more deaths among women in this age group compared to the non-winter period.

Excess winter mortality for 2012/13 was highest in the North West of England and lowest in London - which bucks the trend of the previous year when the highest excess winter death rates were observed in the capital, the report adds.

There were 18,000 winter-related female deaths, a rise from 13,610 the previous year. Meanwhile, the number of excess male deaths was 13,100 - a rise from 10,590 observed in 2011/12.

Following recent price hikes from energy companies, many people may be forced to choose between “heating and eating”, Labour warned.

Shadow public health minister Luciana Berger said: “A third of these excess deaths are caused by people living in homes that are too cold. This winter, David Cameron's failure to stand up to the energy companies will leave too many people forced to choose between heating and eating. Ministers need to take urgent action and back Labour's plans to freeze energy bills.”

Age UK's charity director, Caroline Abrahams, added: “Excess winter deaths are preventable and today's figures are a damning indictment of our failure to address the scandal of cold homes in this country.

“We strongly believe that the only sustainable solution is investment to increase the energy efficiency of our housing stock so cold homes become a thing of the past. The Chancellor must take urgent action on this in next week's Autumn Statement.”

Dave Prentis, general secretary of union Unison, said: “The Government cannot cross its fingers and hope for a milder winter, it must take action now. The Big Six energy companies need reining in. Prices are rising at the same time as profits are growing.

“It's a national disgrace that elderly people are dying in this country because they are too frightened to put on their heating.”

Friends of the Earth fuel poverty campaigner Sophie Neuburg added: “Making energy efficiency a top Government priority would knock hundreds of pounds off fuel bills, create jobs and save thousands of lives every year.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “This rise in deaths is concerning, but we know from a report published by Public Health England this August that increased excess deaths in 2012-13 were occurring across Europe and coincided with an unusually prolonged influenza season and late cold period.

“The NHS is well prepared for winter health issues, and this includes ensuring that people who are vulnerable to the cold are getting the help they need in the community.

“The annual flu vaccination campaign is under way and has been extended to two to three- year-olds to help prevent the spread of the virus to those who are more vulnerable. Public Health England has put in place the Cold Weather Plan, which includes simple and effective measures to help people stay healthy at home.”

The ONS report states that countries in Scandinavia and Northern Europe with bitterly cold winters tend to have low rates of excess winter mortality. Conversely, countries with very mild winter temperatures such as Spain and Portugal tend to have high winter death rates.

There are “many reasons” why countries with milder climates have such high levels of winter mortality. For example, people who live in countries with warmer winters tend to take fewer precautions against the cold and countries with milder winters also tend to have homes with poorer thermal efficiency, the report states.

While excess winter mortality is associated to low temperatures, conditions directly relating to cold, such as hypothermia, are not the main cause of excess winter deaths, the ONS said.

The majority of additional winter deaths are caused by cerebrovascular diseases, ischaemic heart disease and respiratory diseases. Previous research has concluded that low indoor temperature is associated with higher excess winter mortality from cardiovascular disease in England, the report adds.

Additionally, winter flu and also lead to higher death rates, the report states.

Additional reporting PA

News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

    salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

    Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

    Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower