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Excess winter deaths: a chilling reminder of how the cold affects older people

Published on 23 November 2016 12:01 AM

As the latest excess winter deaths statistics are set to be released this week, Age UK is urging older people and their families to seek advice about protecting themselves from winter related illnesses.

  • Britain has one of the worst winter death rates in Europe, even compared to much colder countries
  • Older people are particularly vulnerable to cold temperatures which often leads to serious health problem
  • Age UK has released its top 4 tips for staying warm and well this winter.


On average at least 25,000 older people in the UK die prematurely from cold related illnesses each year - that's over 200 preventable deaths a day.

Age UK has also calculated that over the last 60 years there have been an alarming 2.5 million avoidable deaths among older people in England and Wales due to the winter cold.

Why is Britain's winter death rate so high?

There are several reasons why older people in the UK are more likely to die from cold related illnesses compared to other European countries. These reasons include:

  • Poor quality, cold homes which can worsen illnesses
  • The lack of a comprehensive energy efficiency scheme to help older people to properly insulate their homes
  • A greater need for precautions against the cold, such as wearing appropriate clothing, ensuring flu jabs are taken and making sure medication is up to date.

4 steps you can take to stay well this winter

  1. Stay active. When you are indoors, try not to sit still for more than an hour, if you can get up. Walk around or make a hot drink.
  2. Eat well. It's important to eat well, especially in the winter. Have at least one hot meal a day and have regular hot drinks. Also stock up on basic food items in case of a cold snap.
  3. Keep to the ideal temperature. 64°F (18°C) is the ideal temperature for your bedroom and 70°F (21°C) is the ideal temperature for your living room, although if you still feel cold turn the heating up regardless of what the thermometer reads.
  4. Shut your bedroom window at night. Breathing in cold air can increase the risk of chest infections.

If you're worried about staying well and warm this winter

Age UK is urging anyone who is worried about staying warm this winter to call its Advice Line free of charge on 0800 169 6565.

The free information guide Winter Wrapped Up has practical advice on staying warm and includes a handy free room thermometer. The guide gives information on getting ready for the cold winter months, including tips on staying healthy, and how to keep your home warm and make it energy efficient. It also offers advice to help older people claim the benefits and concessions they may be entitled to.

Read the Winter Wrapped Up guide

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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