The King's Fund responds to ONS winter mortality statistics

This content relates to the following topics:

Commenting on the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures on excess winter mortality in England and Wales, Dr Veena Raleigh, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund, said:

‘These figures show the grim reality that many older people died in winter 2017/18 after a severe flu outbreak. Several European countries saw an increase in winter deaths in 2017/18, but the figures are particularly worrying for the UK which, after decades of progress, is seeing life expectancy improvements grind to a halt.

‘This follows other recent winters when seasonal deaths have been high. With an ageing population, the worry is that this could be the start of a trend of periodically high winter deaths.

‘The evidence suggests that stalling life expectancy is due to several factors, including flu-related deaths and a slowdown in improvements in mortality from diseases such as heart attack and stroke. 

‘National agencies have so far been slow to respond to these disturbing recent trends. Public Health England has been commissioned to investigate the slowdown in life expectancy and it is imperative that their findings are acted upon.’

Notes to editors

For further information, contact Andrew McCracken, Head of Press and Public Affairs, on 020 7307 2594 or 07774 907 960.

The ONS figures are available on the ONS website.

The figures show that: 

  • In the 2017 to 2018 winter period, there were an estimated 50,100 excess winter deaths in England and Wales.
  • The number of excess winter deaths in 2017 to 2018 was the highest recorded since winter 1975 to 1976.
  • During the winter months of 2017 to 2018, the number of daily deaths exceeded the daily five-year average for all days except 25 March.
  • Excess winter mortality in 2017 to 2018 significantly increased from 2016 to 2017 in all English regions and Wales, with Wales having the highest regional index.
  • Excess winter mortality continued to be highest in females and people aged 85 and over.
  • Excess winter mortality doubled among males aged 0 to 64 years between 2016 to 2017 and 2017 to 2018.
  • Over one-third (34.7 per cent) of all excess winter deaths were caused by respiratory diseases.

The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.