CLAHRC West Midlands has a long-standing interest in excess winter deaths. We have charted the reduction in winter deaths over the last decade and have carried out an intervention study on home improvement in the Sandwell district – results of the latter will be reported soon. In a recent fascinating study, Staddon et al. showed that excess winter deaths have not only declined over the last half-century, but they have also become less variable and no longer respond to yearly differences in winter temperature. This paper argues that we may be approaching something of an asymptote, such that it will be very difficult to reduce excess winter deaths further. Improvements in housing quality and reductions in the relative costs of heating a home have contributed to the reduction in winter deaths. Temperatures have risen slightly over England and Wales over the last few decades, but this has probably been a minor factor behind the decrease in winter mortality. In the meantime we are also probing Staddon’s finding in more detail, since the nihilistic conclusion, if true, would have large implications for local authority attempts to improve public health and cut mortality by keeping people warmer.
— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director
- Staddon PL, Montgomery HE, Depledge MH. Climate warming will not decrease winter mortality. Nature Climate Change. 2014; 4: 190-4.