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Spike in number of winter deaths recorded last year

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An estimated 43,900 excess winter deaths occurred in England and Wales in 2014-15, the highest number since 1999.

Excess winter mortality is calculated by subtracting the average number of deaths during spring, summer and autumn from the number of the deaths during the winter months.

According to the Office for National Statistics figures, 27% more people died during the winter months last year compared with the non-winter months.

Unsurprisingly, 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.

In addition, as in previous years, there were more excess winter deaths in females than in males in 2014-15.

Respiratory diseases were the underlying cause of death in more than a third of all excess winter deaths in 2014-15, according to the latest ONS bulletin on winter mortality rates. Pneumonia accounted for the largest proportion of respiratory deaths.

Circulatory diseases, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease were also among the leading causes of excess winter death.

The ONS report stated: “The reasons for the seasonal pattern in deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are not clear.

“However, it may be related to the greater vulnerability of people with these conditions to respiratory diseases, difficulties with self-care, and falls, all of which may be more important in winter months,” it said.

“Last winter there were nearly 10,000 extra deaths from heart and circulatory disease”

June Davison

The ONS data analysis showed that number of excess deaths was highest in South West and the East Midlands, and lowest in Wales and Yorkshire and The Humber.

June Davison, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Last winter there were nearly 10,000 extra deaths from heart and circulatory disease.

“We are funding research which will hopefully help us identify who’s more at risk of dying from heart and circulatory disease in the winter,” she said. “We can then use this knowledge to help prevent winter deaths.”

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