Ex­cess win­ter deaths at high­est level for more than 40 years

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - Uk And World News - BY JEN­NIFER COCKERELL

‘We have seen more than eight peaks dur­ing last 40 years’

Nick Stripe, ONS

There were an es­ti­mated 50,100 ex­cess win­ter deaths in Eng­land and Wales in 2017/18 – the high­est recorded since win­ter 1975/76, fig­ures show.

The in­crease is thought to be down to the flu, the ef­fec­tive­ness of the flu vac­cine and the par­tic­u­larly cold weather seen last win­ter.

The data, from the Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics (ONS), also shows that more than a third (34.7%) of the deaths were caused by res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases.

Ex­cess win­ter mor­tal­ity con­tin­ued to be high­est among fe­males and peo­ple aged 85 and over, while it dou­bled among males aged 064 be­tween the win­ter of 2016/ 17 and 2017/18.

The num­ber of daily deaths ex­ceeded the five-year av­er­age for all dates ex­cept March 25.

Nick Stripe, head of health anal­y­sis and life events at the ONS, said: “The num­ber of ex­cess win­ter deaths in Eng- land and Wales in 201718 was the high­est recorded since the win­ter of 1975/76. How­ever, peaks like these are not un­usual – we have seen more than eight peaks dur­ing the last 40 years. It is likely that last win­ter’s in­crease was due to the pre­dom­i­nant strain of flu, the ef­fec­tive­ness of the in­fluenza vac­cine and be­lowa­v­er­age win­ter tem­per­a­tures.”

The ONS said the in­creases could be ex­plained partly by tem­per­a­ture, as colder weather was ob­served in De­cem­ber, Fe­bru­ary and March com­pared with the five-year av­er­age.

Specif­i­cally, cen­tral Eng­land daily tem­per­a­tures show there was a par­tic­u­larly cold pe­riod be­tween Fe­bru­ary 22 and March 3, which could ac­count for the se­cond peak in daily deaths.

The peak in Jan­uary could also be a re­sult of flu, which saw in­creased lev­els in the first weeks of Jan­uary, reach­ing a peak in week three.

Statis­ti­cians said the high num­ber of deaths among the over-85 age group may be due to the cir­cu­la­tion of in­fluenza A and in­fluenza B, which pre­dom­i­nantly af­fected older adults.

The num­ber of ex­cess win­ter deaths ob­served in 2017/18 was higher than all years since the 1975/76 win­ter pe­riod, when there were 58,100 deaths. How­ever, the in­crease was sim­i­lar to peaks ob­served in pre­vi­ous years such as 2014/15, 1999/2000 and 1998/99. Com­pared with re­cent years, ex­cess win­ter deaths ob­served in 2017/18 were 45.1% higher than the 2016/17 win­ter and more than dou­ble those seen in 2015/16.

STEVE PAR­SONS/PA

The Queen ac­com­pa­nied by (from left) artist Stu­art Brown, Air Com­modore Scott Miller, Deputy Com­man­dant of The De­fence Academy of the United King­dom, War­rant Of­fi­cer Shaun Grif­fin and Wing Com­man­der Dale White, RAF Force Pro­tec­tion Force, as she views a new por­trait of her at Wind­sor Cas­tle

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