High energy bills this winter have focused attention on the difficulties of heating homes adequately. But for many older people the challenges of keeping warm go beyond the immediate worry of staying comfortably warm or paying the next heating bill – cold homes can pose a grave threat to health.
The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) calculates that excess winter mortality accounts for almost 1,000 deaths in NI each year. While COVID-19 complicates the more recent picture, data going back over the last 20 years shows that respiratory disease, circulatory disease, and dementia are the main causes of these excess winter deaths in Northern Ireland.
Central Statistics Office (CSO) data for Ireland also show higher mortality in winter months, usually peaking in January. A HSE / Energy Action Ireland study indicated that there were over 8,500 excess winter deaths from all causes in the six-year period from 2007-2012 and that dementia deaths in Ireland in winter were 26% higher than in summer.