24,300 Excess Deaths Last Winter
By Paul Homewood
The ONS’ mortality statistics also remind us that many more people die in winter than the rest of the year.
Last winter (actually defined as Dec-March), there were 24300 excess deaths.
This figure is calculated by comparing the number of winter deaths with the average during the rest of the year.
The ONS comment:
There were an estimated 24,300 excess winter deaths (EWDs) in England and Wales in the 2015/16 winter period. This represents an excess winter mortality index of 15%; that is 15% more deaths occurred in winter compared to the non-winter months. The number of EWDs has almost halved since the 2014/15 period and is closer to the 5-year average (years 2011/12 to 2015/16) as shown in Figure 1.
Excess winter deaths in 2015/16 were back in line with average trends. The large decrease in EWD from 2014/15 to 2015/16 can largely be explained by the higher than average number of EWDs in 2014/15 rather than unusually low EWDs in 2015/16. It can also, in part, be explained by a different predominant strain of the influenza virus that had a reduced effect on the elderly in 2015/16, with impact mainly seen in young adults (Public Health England, 2016).
Large fluctuation in EWDs is common and trends over time are not smooth. To provide a clear trend over time and to smooth out short-term fluctuations in EWDs a 5-year moving average is calculated and shown in Figure 1. There has been a steady decrease in EWDs since the 1950/51 winter period that has leveled off in recent years. Moreover, it appears that the higher than usual EWDs in 2014/15 were not the start of an upward trend in EWDs but instead a fluctuation in the time series.
The number of deaths in the winter of 2014/15 was unusually high because the predominant influenza virus that year particularly affected the elderly. I also understand that it had not been anticipated when vaccination stocks were being built up.
The monthly breakdown shows that daily deaths are always lowest between June and September.