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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 08:54 GMT
UK has 'most cold weather deaths'
Pensioner in front of fire
Pensioners are urged to take cold weather seriously
More people die from the cold weather in Britain than in any other European country, including Siberia.

Up to 50,000 more people die in the UK during the winter months than in the summer, according to new research.

Wrapping up warm and keeping moving when hanging about in the cold really can save your life

Professor William Keatinge
Most deaths caused by the cold are from strokes and coronary thrombosis in people aged over 55 rather than flu, said Professor William Keatinge, of London's Queen Mary and Westfield College.

"Many people here simply do not take the cold seriously and appreciate the danger it poses.

"Simple things like wrapping up warm and keeping moving when hanging about in the cold really can save your life," he said.

Fuel poverty

Even in the city of Yakutsk in Siberia, where temperatures plummet to -40C, there are fewer deaths than Britain in winter.

He said the deaths are triggered by a thickening of the blood when people are exposed to the cold, and are often not attributed to the weather conditions.

Flu is only to blame for 2.4% of the deaths in winter, due to wider immunisation and fewer new viral strains.

In his research, published in the British Medical Journal, Professor Keatinge argued more government money is needed to be put into tackling fuel poverty.

And the charity Friends of the Earth has called for a national programme to fight fuel poverty, for example through better home insulation.

FoE co-ordinator Martyn Williams said: "This research highlights once again the scandal of excess winter deaths in Britain.

"They are a consequence of cold weather - and to the poor state of our housing stock compared to other European countries".

See also:

09 Jan 01 | Scotland
Anger over 'cold' weather deaths
19 Sep 00 | Health
Cold weather kills thousands
10 Feb 99 | Medical notes
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