Increased Winter Mortality

In most north European countries more people die in the four months from December to March than during the rest of the year.

There were 2,060 "excess" deaths in Scotland during the winter of 2018/19. 

Contributing factors include low income, inefficient heating systems, external temperature fluctuations, and excessive dampness and mould growth associated with poor housing stock.

In Scotland there are long and damp winters, which are worse for health than dry Scandinavian winters. Factors affecting excess winter mortality are varied and complex, but there is a strong relationship between thermal standards in housing and excess winter deaths. 

The UK has much higher winter deaths rates than other countries with more severe winter climates, implying that it is not outdoor exposure to cold that is the key determinant. Northern Finland, where winter temperatures regularly drop to -20°C, has a significantly lower rate of excess winter deaths than the UK.  However, Finnish buildings have historically had much higher levels of insulation and whole house central heating has been the norm for years.

It is generally accepted that the number of excess winter deaths could be reduced if everyone could be kept warm in their homes during the winter months.

For statistics on increased winter mortality see Statistics and Trends.