New figures released by the ONS show that over the winter of 2016-17 there were 31,800 excess winter deaths among the over 65s from cold-related illness such as heart attacks and strokes[i] (compared to 20,800 the previous year). One third of all the excess winter deaths reported were caused by respiratory diseases.
Responding to the new figures, Age UK’s Charity Director Caroline Abrahams, said:
‘This dramatic jump in excess winter deaths in England is a terrible rebuke to anyone who thought it was “job done” when it comes to keeping older people safe and sound through the winter. Remember that every one of these deaths was, by definition, preventable.
‘Without further research it is impossible to nail down cause and effect but it is notable that last winter was not especially severe and that the statistics remained stable in Wales. A less than fully effective flu vaccine is likely to be one culprit, but it is also true that many older people live in poorly insulated homes and worry about turning up the heating during the cold months, increasing their risk of ill health. In addition, we know the NHS and social care are under unprecedented strain and the net result is that poorly older people, often living alone, are not always getting the effective, timely help they need to nip emerging health problems in the bud.
‘We cannot run the risk of these figures getting even worse next year so the Government must take urgent action to address the underlying causes – today’s Budget is a good place to start.’
Age UK is urging older people to ensure they’re doing everything possible to protect themselves against the cold weather. Anyone who is concerned about staying warm and healthy this winter should call the Charity’s advice line free of charge on 0800 169 6565 or check its website www.ageuk.org.uk/winter for a free copy of its annually updated guide Winter wrapped up.