More deaths in winter

16/02/2018 15:00
© Hollandse Hoogte
So far, this winter (2017/’18) has seen fewer deaths than the same period last year. However, mortality is higher than usual, just as in the previous winter. This is reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) in its annual news release on winter mortality, based on preliminary weekly mortality figures.

In the period from the first week of November 2017 up to and including the fifth week of January 2018, 43.4 thousand deaths were recorded. This is 1.5 thousand fewer than in the same period in 2016/’17. Mortality among older people in particular was lower than in the previous winter season. So far, the number of deaths among people aged 80 or older recorded this winter is down by nearly 5 percent year-on-year. In comparison with previous winters, however, the mortality rate among the elderly is considerably higher.

Deaths among elderly mostly in winter

Every year, the number of deaths is higher in winter than in the other seasons, especially among the over-80s. As this group of older people is getting larger, more deaths are recorded as well, winter deaths in particular. Mortality rates are also higher in cold weather periods and during the influenza season. Since mid-December 2017, there has been a flu epidemic. In the winter of 2016/’17, the epidemic started at the end of November 2016 and lasted for 15 weeks.

Also more winter deaths in rest of Europe

An above-average mortality rate during the current and previous winter season is not only seen in the Netherlands, but also in other European countries.
Strong mortality fluctuations in the Netherlands usually coincide with similar trends in the rest of Europe. For example, the number of deaths in the Netherlands stood at 147 thousand in 2015, nearly 6 percent higher than in 2014 (139 thousand). Mortality in neighbouring countries saw similar growth rates between these two years.
In the winter of 2014/’15, the Dutch flu epidemic lasted for 21 weeks, the longest since 1970. Other European countries, too, had to cope with a particularly long influenza season.

2017 was a record year

In January 2017, there were 15.8 thousand deaths, 26 percent more than in an average month during that year. January’s high mortality rate was the highest over the last half century. In total, more than 150 thousand people passed away in 2017, the highest number ever recorded.
Despite rising life expectancy, a growing population with an increasing number of older people will lead to a higher annual number of deaths. As a result, the number of deaths has nearly doubled since 1950. It is likely that the annual number of deaths will continue to rise in the future due to an ageing population.