Nearly 400 more people died in Norfolk over winter months than the rest of the year
Nearly 400 more people died in Norfolk over winter than during any other time of the year, new data has shown.
And statistics suggest rural living puts the county at a disadvantage.
New government figures revealed there were 390 excess winter death in Norfolk during 2015/16, with provisional data suggesting the figures for last winter (2016/17) could be even higher.
The data showed a significant rise in winter deaths across the region with 4,200 recorded in the East of England - the second highest level for five years.
This indicates the full figures for Norfolk could be considerably more when the verified data is released next year.
Excess winter deaths are defined as the difference between the number of deaths in the winter months (December to March) compared with the previous (August to November) and following (April to July) three months.
The figures indicate that people in rural parts of Britain, such as Norfolk, are disproportionately affected because their homes tend to be older with poorer insulation and so are harder to keep warm.
This issue is highlighted in the report which states cold temperatures are associated with increased blood pressure and a lower immune system which puts older and vulnerable people most at risk.
It comes as this newspaper has pledged its support to Norfolk Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter campaign to help fund heating bills for older people who can’t afford them.
Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC, the trade association for the oil heating industry, said: “The government’s statistics reveal that, once again, a shockingly high number of people have died unnecessarily. There is clearly still much more to do to ensure the most vulnerable in society are kept warm and well during the winter months.
“Christmas is an expensive time of year and many struggling families may turn their heating down to save money – even though this can put their health at risk.
“Whilst there is some good news for households on oil heating who are benefitting from sustained low oil prices and the cheapest fuel bills, it is essential that all households are made aware of the support available to them.”