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  • Writer's pictureWGON

How Britons are dying in their tens of thousands - but no one knows why

The latest data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) stated that there were 32,441 excess deaths in England and Wales from May to December last year. These deaths excluded those from Covid. The shock revelation has raised alarm bells amid health professionals.

Excess deaths are defined as the number of people who died above the five-year average - worked out excluding 2020 due to how Covid spiked death figures that year.

The alarming numbers since the Covid pandemic, excess deaths have fluctuated wildly month on month, tumbling well below the five-year average or spiking far above it.

The rise in the number of fatalities could be attributed to a number of causes, however, it is not yet clear what’s leading to the spikes or causing these drop-offs.

Similarly, earlier in 2022, excess deaths dipped well below average levels, with one expert group speculating to the Mirror that a ‘mortality displacement’ effect might explain why so many deaths are bunched up in the space of several months, being passed on from the months prior.

Professor David Coleman, Emeritus Professor of Demography at Oxford University, told the Mirror that no one knew for certain what had caused so many deaths throughout last year. He pointed out that, post Covid, the UK’s population had been changed through the deaths of a significant proportion of the elderly due to the virus.

He explained: “Once those poor people have been packed off, the remaining population should be healthier, there should be a period afterwards where deaths are lower than usual but that hasn’t happened.”

However, he highlighted two key reasons that could contribute towards spiking excess deaths, the fact Britain’s getting older, and gaining a larger average body-mass index.

He said: “The population is getting older, and also the population in Britain is the fattest in Europe and rather vulnerable to diseases notably heart disease and diabetes; some people have been forecasting separately from Covid that death rates would continue to get worse because the country is so unhealthy.”

One of the major causes behind the rise in the number of excess deaths was ischaemic heart diseases - which would track with the professor’s warnings of a fatter population.

Similarly, when looking at the leading cause of death across much of 2022, it’s dementia and Alzheimers - further supporting theories of an increasingly greying, and dying, population.

Dementia and Alzheimers often aren’t the leading cause of excess deaths, when that data is available, according to ONS figures, it’s often pneumonia and influenza during the winter or symptoms, signs and ill-defined conditions in other parts of the year.

He told Mirror: “If you look at the detail and the reasons on death certificates, it’s a bit unsatisfactory as symptoms, signs and ill-defined is one of the biggest components of these excess deaths and that’s something associated with old age really.”

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