4,950 excess winter deaths caused by cold homes last winter

Following publication of new official data, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition has estimated that 4,950 excess winter deaths in the UK were caused by living in cold homes during winter 2022/23. [1]

Historic records also indicate that when the mean winter temperature in the UK drops below four degrees centigrade, the level of excess winter deaths sky-rockets. The average temperature last winter was 4.3 degrees. [2]

While December 2023 was exceptionally warm, average daily temperatures for the UK in January are forecast to dip as low as -1.6 degrees and fell to -14 in some parts of the UK last night. [3]

The Government continues to rely on Warm Homes Discounts, Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payments as the measures of support to households, however these are limited in eligibility and impact.

This winter the Government refused demands to support households through an Emergency Energy Tariff and a help to repay scheme for those in energy debt.

But the Government’s approach is an increasingly dangerous strategy with the effects of climate change taking hold. 

The Met Office official guidance is that El Niño winters are more likely to be colder in the UK and scientists predict that these El Niño winters could become more common as global temperatures increase. With 2023 being declared as the hottest year on record, campaigners have urged politicians to grasp the seriousness of the situation.

A spokesperson for End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented

“Figures from the Warm This Winter campaign show that 8.3m adults are living in cold damp homes this winter and, as temperatures drop, these conditions go from being uncomfortable to downright dangerous.

“But while households struggle, Ministers are sitting on their hands and leaving matters of life and death to chance.

“Instead of taking action on energy bills, they have allowed energy firms to restart using the courts to force households onto prepayment meters and have now ruled out reform to energy tariffs to help those most in need. 

“They would rather play politics with a ridiculous Oil & Gas Licensing Bill that will do nothing to improve energy security or lower bills than take meaningful action to help households struggling right now.”

Jan Shortt, General Secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention, which is part of the Warm This Winter campaign, said: 

“We are very concerned at the level of disinterest shown by the government in the welfare of older people at a time when the temperature is dropping well below freezing. 

“It fell as low as -14 degrees this week and even in towns and cities it does not get much warmer until later in the day. This presents a real dilemma for older people struggling with the cost of energy and other inflated bills – we know many are already afraid to turn the heating on at all. 

“Add to this the decision by Ofgem and the government to allow the force-fitting of energy prepayment meters to resume, while energy providers continue to enjoy inflated profits, smacks of abandonment of those struggling to pay their bills without any relief on the horizon.”

Greenpeace UK’s climate campaigner, Georgia Whitaker, said: 

“This is a national scandal. The UK has the least insulated homes in Western Europe. We’ve known this for years. Yet every year thousands of people are dying as a result. And our government is doing practically nothing to fix the problem. 

“Insulating homes at speed and scale right across the UK would drastically reduce these unavoidable deaths, as well as helping to tackle the cost of living and climate crises by lowering bills and slashing household emissions. But until that happens, this shameful government negligence will continue to cost people their lives, and without climate leadership the government will be punished at the ballot box.”

UPDATE: In February 2024, the ONS launched a consultation on the methodology associated with this calculation and also set out new figures for excess deaths in a particular period (rather than excess winter mortality levels as set out in the figures above). Even after these new measures are introduced, the old data which is set out above is not technically incorrect, however the metrics used for calculating the figure may be less accurate than the new measures.


[1] 2022/23 Data: ONS (for England & Wales) table 10, updated on 17 January 2024 combined with NRS and NISRA data then applying IHE methodology to estimate the number of Excess Winter Deaths caused by living in cold homes. Previous End Fuel Poverty Coalition estimates put the figure at 4,706 Excess Winter Deaths caused by cold homes.

[2] ​​Excess winter deaths caused by cold damp homes and average winter temperatures (End Fuel Poverty Coalition records)

Winter Number of excess winter deaths caused by cold homes  Mean winter temp (C) 
2010/2011 6,232 2.4
2011/2012 5,608 4.5
2012/2013 7,321 3.3
2013/2014 4,206 5.2
2014/2015     10,475 3.9
2015/2016 6,035 5.5
2016/2017 8,211 5
2017/2018     11,997 3.6
2018/2019 5,665 5.2
2019/2020 2,439 5.3
2020/2021     14,502 3.5
2021/2022 3,229 5.2
2022/2023 4,950 4.3

[3] December 2023 stats – 5.8 degrees mean: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/climate/maps-and-data/summaries/index

January 2024 stats: 

https://www.netweather.tv/charts-and-data/average-uk-temperature (accessed 16 January 2024 at 1400)