There were 19,500 excess winter deaths in people aged 75 and over in England and Wales in 2011/12 compared with 4,500 in the under-75 group, according to new figures published today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Full details are contained in Excess Winter Mortality in England and Wales, 2011/12 (Provisional) and 2010/11 (Final) and for the first time the ONS is publishing excess winter deaths figures for local authorities in England and Wales.
Excess winter mortality was highest in London in 2011/12, whereas in 2010/11 it was highest in Wales. Wales had one of the lowest levels of excess winter mortality last winter, second only to the North East of England. The increase in London occurred exclusively in people aged 85 and over and may be related to influenza incidence, as the Health Protection Agency reported that London had the highest level of influenza-like illness in England and Wales during this period.
In total there were an estimated 24,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in 2011/12, an 8 per cent reduction compared with the previous winter. As in previous years there were more excess winter deaths in females than in males, but this might be explained by the fact that a higher proportion of the female population are aged 75 and over (9.2 per cent compared with 6.4 per cent of males).
Overall, deaths in January 2012 were about 9 per cent lower than average. Unusually, mortality peaked in February, which is likely to be related to increased influenza, as the rise in deaths coincided with the peak in the influenza-like illness rate. In addition, February was the coldest winter month and the increased deaths closely followed a period of colder than average temperatures.
Influenza-like illness in the winter of 2011/12 was the lowest on record, which coupled with the mild winter, may partially explain the fall in excess winter deaths compared with 2010/11. The last influenza epidemic occurred in 1999/2000 and was associated with a high level of excess winter mortality.
Next publication: November 2013
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Figures for excess winter deaths in 2011/12 are based on provisional data.
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