New figures released by the ONS today show that over the winter of 2014/15 there were a staggering 40,800 excess winter deaths among the over 65s from cold-related illness such as heart attacks and strokes.
The majority of deaths occurred among people aged 75 and over; there were an estimated 36,300 excess winter deaths in this age group in 2014/15, compared with 7,700 in people aged under 75.
Among the over 65s numbers dying have more than doubled since 2013/14 when there were 15,900 excess winter deaths.
2.5 million avoidable deaths over the last 60 years
Over the last ten years a shocking quarter of a million older people have died from the cold –1 older person every 7 minutes. Age UK has calculated that over the last 60 years there have been a dreadful 2.5 million avoidable deaths among older people in England and Wales due to the winter cold. At the root of this problem are cold, poorly insulated homes.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: 'After last year’s modest improvement, this year's dramatic jump in excess winter deaths is a terrible rebuke to anyone who thought it was 'job done' when it comes to keeping older people safe from the cold. Indeed, these truly awful statistics represent a significant reverse and they highlight the imperative of us doing much more to tackle the underlying problem: cold, poorly insulated homes.
'Behind the figures are many individual tragedies of older people dying needlessly before their time. Not only is the human cost of cold devastating, treating the casualties piles big avoidable costs on the NHS and social care services too.
Cold homes, high energy bills and a lack of support: 'a toxic combination'
'The problem is we face a toxic combination of some of the coldest, most draughty homes in Europe, high energy bills and the absence of a comprehensive energy efficiency scheme to support older people in insulating their homes, so they can protect themselves against the very real threat of cold to their health.
'Today, through the Spending Review, the Government has the opportunity to show the leadership required to combat fuel poverty and cold homes. Above all, we need a sustained, ambitious energy efficiency programme, a workable replacement for the Green Deal and reform of the ECO.
'I don’t want our successors to look back in fifty years’ time and wonder how we knew older people were dying needlessly each year because of their poorly insulated homes, and yet we somehow failed to act. Many countries with colder climates than ours have far better records on cold-related deaths, showing we should be doing much better than we currently are. Cold homes have life and death consequences for older people and we should be deeply ashamed of that in an affluent country like ours.'