Nearly 600 more people died in Norfolk during winter as number of excess winter deaths soars
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018
The number of additional deaths during winter almost doubled last year compared to the previous year across the UK, as the colder months took their toll on the elderly and infirm.
Every year, more people die in winter than in summer, due to colder temperatures, respiratory diseases and outbreaks of flu - but a charity says older people in East Anglia are suffering in the cold as they worry about putting their heating on.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) measures the impact of these factors by comparing the number of additional deaths between December and March to the rest of the year.
During the winter of 2016/17, the latest period figures are available, there were around 590 excess winter deaths in Norfolk, a significant increase compared to the year before when there were 390 deaths.
Similar figures were seen in Suffolk, where 550 people died during the winter months compared to 300 in the year previously.
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This occurred against the backdrop of the NHS's most serious winter crisis for many years and the heavy snowfall - nicknamed the Beast from the East - causing significant hardship to those worried about not being able to pay their energy bills.
Rural areas like Norfolk experience high rates of excess winter deaths as homes tend to be older with poorer insulation and so are more difficult to keep warm.
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Lin Mathews, head of charitable services at Age UK Norfolk, said last year saw particularly bad winter and many elderly people chose to suffer in the cold rather than face high energy bills.
'I think the deaths are linked to the bad weather,' she said. 'Older people are getting cold and dying unnecessarily because of the cold.
'There are lots of people in Norfolk who suffer from respiratory conditions as they worked on the land, so therefore that restricts their breathing.
'There is also a high number of people suffering strokes and asthma in Norfolk.'
The Surviving Winter Campaign, run by the Norfolk Community Foundation and backed by the EDP and Norwich Evening News, aims to raise £150,000 to tackle fuel poverty and help those who are struggling to keep warm.
Ms Mathews said: 'The campaign will help alleviate some of the worry older people have, helping them to heat their homes so they do not need to worry and suffer in the cold.'
Figures show large increases in winter deaths
The highest number of deaths in Norfolk were recorded in Broadland and King's Lynn and West Norfolk - with 110 people dying in each local authority area, compared with 40 and 70 deaths, respectively, in the year before.
Around 80 people died in Norwich, 22pc more compared with the yearly average, and another 80 people died in Great Yarmouth, a 21pc increase compared to the summer months.
In Waveney, nearly three times as many people died during the winter in 2016/17 than the year before - a staggering 130 compared to just 50 in 2015/16.
Provisional data for England and Wales shows that excess winter deaths hit their highest level in more than 40 years during 2017-18, where an estimated 50,100 people died - 45pc higher than the previous year.
Across the East of England, winter was most deadly for pensioners and elderly people - out of 4,210 excess winter deaths in the region, 4,010 were older than 65 and 2,530 older than 85.
The Surviving Winter campaign is urging older people who do not need their winter fuel allowance to donate it to those who desperately do, as many are faced with choosing between paying the bills and putting food on the table.
Funds raised in the appeal will be distributed to a range of good causes across Norfolk, including the foundation trust's key partners Age UK Norfolk, Norwich Foodbank and St Martins Housing Trust.
To donate, Visit the Surviving Winter appeal donation page at www.norfolkfoundation.com/news-events/launch-of-the-surviving-winter-appeal or call Norfolk Community Foundation on 01603 623 958.
You can donate by cheque made payable to Norfolk Community Foundation and send it to Norfolk Community Foundation, St James Mill, Whitefriars, Norwich NR3 1TN.