Have high heating costs led to 9,000 more UK pensioners dying last winter?

Higher electricity costs mean more people turn off their heaters

There’s a big freeze coming to Britain with minus 12C temperatures possible in the next three weeks.

Last year in winter in England there was a remarkable 40% rise in winter deaths

David Archibald emails that last year was a mild winter for Brits, but the death toll rose from the normal 25,000 excess to 34,000 people.

Remembering that it’s moderate cold that kills far more people than extreme temperatures. The UK government advises rooms be heated to at least 18C. (I’ve been in a Canberra house where the temperature fell to 11C indoors, and that was in May.)

Despite all the newspaper headlines about outside temperatures, the big killer is indoors.

The big killer is indoor temperature and moderately cold, not extremes.

Pensioner groups are demanding urgent measures to cut the cost of heat and light after official figures revealed a surge in deaths last winter.

There were some 34,300 so-called ‘excess’ deaths during the cold months, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The figure equates to 11 pensioners dying every hour and represents a rise of 39.5 percent – 9,720 – on the year before.

The excess deaths largely came from English regions. Statistics in Wales were stable. It’s partly due to the strain of flu virus, but colder room temperatures are a known risk factor.

Research suggests that further increases in dual-fuel tariffs in the past year means people are increasingly worried about putting the heating on.

National Pensioners Convention (NPC) general secretary Jan Short says governments have been ignoring the excess winter deaths and the cost of heating:

“‘Almost one in three older people live in homes with inadequate heating or insulation making their homes more difficult to heat or keep warm.

Research by the price comparison website, Energyhelpine, claims that UK families are now paying the highest energy prices in history – 33per cent higher than six years ago.

Age UK’s Charity Director, Caroline Abrahams,  claims that 250,000 older people have died from the cold over the last 10 years – and 2.5milllion over the past 60 years.

Influenza virus transmission is higher at colder temperatures and with lower humidity.

From Lancet, cold ambient temperatures increase both cardiovascular deaths and infectious deaths. Colder temperatures cause blood to thicken, blood pressure to rise and inflammatory responses:

The biological processes that underlie cold-related mortality mainly have cardiovascular and respiratory effects. Exposure to cold has been associated with cardiovascular stress by affecting factors such as blood pressure and plasma fibrinogen, vasoconstriction and blood viscosity, and inflammatory responses. Similarly, cold induces bronchoconstriction and suppresses mucociliary defenses and other immunological reactions, resulting in local inflammation and increased risk of respiratory infections. These physiological responses can persist for longer than those attributed to heat and seem to produce mortality risks that follow a smooth, close-to-linear response, with most of the attributable risk occurring in moderately cold days.

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Comments (6)

  • Avatar

    Sonnyhill

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    Orwell’s Animal Farm character Boxer presaged this cold-heartedness. Poor old blighters are a drag on the Exchequer, what with their pensions and high maintenance costs.

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Spurwing Plover

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    Becuase the Enviromentalists radicals would rather see you freeze to death then see the Polar Bears grounds dotted with Oil Wells all those Keep it in the Ground jerks need to GET A LIFE burn their NRDC membership cards and and use the money to buy groceries rather then pay it to keep the Greenpeace ships fueled

    Reply

  • Avatar

    David Lewis

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    I’m sure that those who support the climate change agenda believe the loss of a few hundred thousand lives is worth it to implement socialism and a one world government.

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Amber

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    Britain’s foolish climate policies annually result in more deaths than all the Allied armies lost on D-Day combined .
    Some of those poor pensioners may have beaten the Krauts
    machine guns but never expected to be taken out by stupid politicians from their own country.

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Spurwing Plover

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    Since man enviromentealists wackos beleive Ehrlichs Population Bomb Malarkey they beleive every thing their told by the Green Nut News Letter like Going Vegan Living in a Mud Hut and making that seasonal virgin or child sacrifice to Gaia will spare them until the next time

    Reply

  • Avatar

    rakooi

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    Last year Great Britain had a bad winter.
    Combine a bad winter and a conservative series of governments cutting back on support for the Poor…you have an admixture for ugly events….this being one of them.

    Nine out of 10 heat waves with the most fatalities have occurred since 2000, according to data in EM-DAT, an international disaster database. They have caused 128,885 deaths around the world, according to the database.
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    Some areas may become uninhabitable
    So what is the highest temperature a person can tolerate?

    It depends on the amount of heat stress a person undergoes. This, in turn, is dictated not simply by the air temperature, but also by the humidity, wind speed, and the amount of long- and shortwave radiation a person is exposed to.

    In a 2010 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists explored the level of temperature and humidity—called the “wet-bulb temperature”—beyond which a human body can no longer dissipate heat by sweating, and the body temperature rises to life-threatening levels.

    The scientists found that if humans were to be exposed to wet bulb-temperatures higher than 95 °F (35 ºC) for more than six hours, they would not survive.

    Wet-bulb temperatures average 78 °F (26 ºC) in most places in the world today. That’s true even in the hottest deserts, where air temperatures can soar but the humidity tends to be low, resulting in tolerable wet-bulb temperatures.
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    But low wet-bulb temperatures may not hold in a warming world, the study found.

    As humans double the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere above preindustrial levels, global temperatures are expected to rise by between 1.9 and 4.5 ºC, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    If much of the fossil fuel reserves on the planet are burned, CO2 levels would more than double. As a result, global temperatures may rise by 12.6 °F (7 ºC), and many parts of the world would become uninhabitable, the study finds.

    And if all the fossil fuel reserves are burned, temperatures would rise by 21.6 °F (12 ºC), and all of Earth will be intolerable to humans, the study finds.

    Adaptation harder for the poor
    Wet-bulb temperature does not correlate directly with the number of fatalities from a given heat wave. Although Bandar-e Mahshahr residents experienced wet-bulb temperatures exceeding comfortable limits last week, there were few fatalities.
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    That’s because the nation has infrastructure to minimize residents’ exposure to intolerable heat. Middle Eastern nations, which are sweltering hot throughout the year, are highly air conditioned.

    People in Bandar-e Mahshahr do not stay outside in the summer for more than 15 minutes without cooling off, one resident told The Washington Post.

    In contrast, poorer people in Pakistan and India do not have the economic means to cope with deadly heat. They may also have a poorer nutritional status and chronic diseases related to poverty that puts them at higher risk of heat-related mortality, said Patrick Kinney, a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University.

    “People that are less economically capable and living in conditions where they can’t protect themselves will be more vulnerable,” he said.

    Some Indian states, like Odisha and Gujarat, have launched awareness campaigns to inform people of heat waves. But much of the nation has not adapted to the threat (ClimateWire, June 1). So 16 years after a heat wave killed 2,500 people across the nation in 1999, India experienced similar levels of mortality this May.

    Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. http://www.eenews.net, 202-628-650

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