United Kingdom

Excess winter deaths

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • Each year, around 20,000 more people aged 65 or over in England and Wales die in winter months than in other months. In some years (e.g. 2008/09), the figure is much higher.
  • The rate of excess winter deaths amongst those aged 65 and over is similar in all regions.
  • See the equivalent analysis for Scotland.

Why this indicator was originally chosen

Older people occupy much of the substandard housing in Britain, and the link between ill health and housing is strong for this group.  This is particularly important because many older people spend such a lot of time at home.  Respiratory diseases are often caused or made worse by damp and cold conditions at home.  Inefficient heating and insulation are factors driving the high level of winter deaths in Britain: there are 30,000-40,000 more deaths in winter than summer months, and old people make up the vast majority of that excess. 1  The indicator used here is the ‘number of excess winter deaths’ amongst older people.

Definitions and data sources

The first graph shows excess winter deaths each year in the 65 and over age group, where ‘excess winter deaths’ is defined as the difference between the number of deaths which occurred in winter (December to March) and the average number of deaths during the preceding four months (August to November) and the subsequent four months (April to July).

The second graph shows how the proportion of excess winter deaths among those in the 65 and over age group varies by region.  This is done using something called the ‘excess winter deaths index’ calculated as excess winter deaths divided by the average non-winter deaths, expressed as a percentage.  To its improve statistical reliability, the data is the average for the latest three years.

The data source for both graphs is ONS mortality data and the data is for England and Wales.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  Whilst the data sources used here are reliable ones, there is no data providing evidence of a direct causal relationship between winter deaths and energy inefficient housing.

External links

Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

None directly relevant.

The numbers

Graph 1

Year Thousands




1992/93 24
1993/94 24
1994/95 25
1995/96 37
1996/97 45
1997/98 21
1998/99 44
1999/00 45
2000/01 23
2001/02 26
2002/03 22
2003/04 22
2004/05 29
2005/06 23

Graph 2

Region Excess winter deaths index
East 20%
East Midlands 21%
London 21%
North East 18%
North West 20%
South East 22%
South West 20%
Wales 22%
West Midlands 22%
Yorkshire and The Humber 20%

1. Hypothermia: the facts, Age Concern Briefing Paper Reference 2296, 1996.