Lesley Brennan

Seasonal Increase in Mortality in Winter in Dundee


22 October 2015

The seasonal increase in mortality in winter in Dundee has now reached a 10-year high , according to new figures released by the National Records of Scotland. (NRS)

The definition of the “seasonal increase” in mortality is the difference between the total number of deaths in the four month period between December and March (defined as the winter months) and the average number of deaths in the other two four-month periods- the previous August to November and the period April to July afterwards.

In the city, the increased seasonal increase in the period December 2014- March 2015 was 150 across all age groups. (130 in the age groups over 65)

The NRS states :

“There is no single cause of 'additional' deaths in winter. Very few are caused by hypothermia. The underlying causes of most of the ‘additional’ deaths are respiratory and circulatory diseases (such as pneumonia, coronary heart disease and stroke), dementia, and Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative nervous system diseases

“In only a small proportion of deaths is influenza recorded as the underlying cause.”

Many organisations working with elderly people emphasise the need for them to remain warm at home and outside to lessen the risk of serious problems for their health.

Investigating the link between winter deaths and the health of the elderly , Age UK state :

“The UK has some of the worst levels of home energy efficiency in Europe, and much colder countries have much lower death rates in winter than the UK because their homes are better insulated.”

In Scandinavian countries like Sweden, having well-insulated homes is viewed as a sound investment in a caring society.

And cold homes in this country come at a cost.

It is estimated that the cost to the NHS in Scotland to treat the ill-health that results from cold homes could be up to £80 million a year.

Clearly, more needs to be invested in insulation.

And with winter approaching, the impact of the cold and of fuel bills has already been assessed by Age UK research in publicising their Spread the Warmth campaign :

“Each winter 1 older person dies needlessly every 7 minutes from the cold - that’s 200 deaths a day that could be prevented….we estimate that 1.7 million older people can’t afford to heat their homes and over one third of elderly people in the UK say they live mainly in one room to save money…..Every year 3.5 million older people in the UK say they are dreading the cold weather in winter”