29/11/2011

Cold Comfort As Winter Deaths Fall

One of the coldest and harshest winters to hit NI in memory failed to cause any rise in the levels of winters mortalities.

Despite the cold weather, last winter (December 2010 - March 2011) there was in fact a fall in the number of deaths registered.

There were 740 excess winter deaths in 2010/11, a decrease on the corresponding figure of 940 excess winter deaths in 2009/10.

These figures are included in excess winter mortality statistics released today by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

While the older population face higher mortality rates anyway, this NISRA report indicates that excess winter mortality also hits the eldest the hardest.

The report also points to respiratory and circulatory diseases as having the greatest proportionate impact.

Looking further back the impact of influenza on excess winter mortality is also a major feature - this is seen in statistics from 1999/2000 and 1989/1990 when the last two major influenza outbreaks happened in Northern Ireland.

Dr David Marshall from NISRA said: "There were 740 excess winter deaths in 2010/11.
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"Although the winter of 2010/11 was particularly severe, the number of excess winter deaths fell compared to the previous winter. The largest number of excess winter deaths witnessed in recent years (1,830 deaths) coincided with an influenza epidemic in winter 1989/1990."

The statement added that the number of excess winter deaths is defined as the difference between the overall number of deaths which occurred in the winter months of December to March and the average number of deaths occurring in the preceding August to November, and the following April to July.

In the winter period (December to March) of 2010/11 there were an extra 740 deaths in Northern Ireland, compared to the average for the non-winter periods (previous August to November and the following April to July).

The corresponding figure for 2009/10 was 940 excess winter deaths.

Also, in winter 2010/11, two-thirds of excess winter deaths involved people aged 75 and over.

Proportionately, excess winter deaths impacts hardest on people aged 85 and over and between 2009/10 and 2010/11 the excess winter mortality index decreased in all Health and Social Care Trusts except Belfast, which experienced a small increase. The South Eastern Trust had the highest excess winter mortality index last winter.

The statement also said that circulatory diseases accounted for the largest number of excess winter deaths registered in 2010/11; however, respiratory causes had the highest excess winter mortality index (thus having the greatest proportionate impact) of all causes in 2010/11.

(BMcC)

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