Excess winter deaths fall, but over 24,000 still die
Published on 29 November 2012 11:30 AM
New figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today show that 21,700 older people died last winter from cold-related illnesses - a 3% drop on the previous year.
While the drop is clearly good news, there was an increase of 1% in the 75-84 age bracket (up from 19,400 to 19,500), and a much steeper 7% increase in number of deaths among the over 85s (up from 12,040 to 12,900).
Overall, 24,000 people died needlessly last winter, more than 90% of whom are aged over 65.
Age UK response
In response to the figures, Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General at Age UK, said: 'It's good news that the number of excess winter deaths fell last year, but it remains a national tragedy that 21,700 older people's lives were claimed by cold weather and many millions more endured cold-related illness.
'Every single excess winter death is preventable and represents our failure to meet the challenge of plummeting temperatures in Britain. Even in very cold countries such as Finland, excess winter deaths are much lower because they take staying warm seriously and prepare for cold weather.'
It's important to note that only 1 in 100 cold winter deaths is as a result of hypothermia. The majority are as a result of underlying cardiovascular problems (35%) or respiratory problems (35%) and exacerbated by cold homes.
'Cold homes - caused by a number of factors including high energy costs and poor insulation - not only have a devastating impact on older people's health, but are a major cause of excess winter deaths,' says Michelle Mitchell. 'Those living in the coldest homes are three 3 more likely to die a preventable death than those living in warmer ones.'
Campaigning to end winter deaths
As part of our Spread the Warmth campaign, Age UK is trying to put an end to these thousands of needless winter deaths.
Not only is the human cost high, but the charity also estimates cold homes cost the NHS around £1.36bn each year.
'We are calling on all local authorities to recognise the issue as a major health priority and make sure they are doing everything within their power to keep older people warm,' says Michelle Mitchell.
'But the only way to make a sustained and long term impact on excess winter deaths is by investing in making Britain's homes more energy efficient.'