The unexplained rise in deaths in week 4 January 2015

[see end for solution]

In February 2015 the BBC reported that the death rate was up by 30% in January but it explained it as doctors spending more time with flu victims and newspapers reported it as flu and freezing temperatures. But the mean temperature in January was 3.7 °C which was 0.1 ° above the long-term average. So temperature was not a significant factor in comparison to other winter weeks.

The article also explained that the flu jab given to the elderly was the ‘right type’ i.e. they had guessed right in the type to mass-produce. [note in November 2015 they now say it was effective in only 1 in 3 cases].

This graph clearly shows that there was a rise in flu over Christmas 2014 and into January 2015 — but by week 4 it fell and then rose again by week 8.

Public Health England:
“In week 3 2015 (ending 18 January), across indicators influenza activity was at lower levels than those reported the previous week in England.”

But the graph above shows a steady fall in the death rate to week 8 in February 2015. Also the mean temperature in February was 3.5°C which was
0.1 °C below the long-term average. So you would have expected a slight rise here from hypothermia deaths with increasing cold — not a fall.

The Guardian newspaper reported 280,000 homeless people — a 9% rise. Could this be a factor? In America they reported an estimated 2000 deaths in the homeless community in twelve months. So this surely could not account for the thousands of deaths in a single month? Though the government does have a policy to remove sleeping bags and food from the homeless in the UK — as reported in the telegraph.

In Scotland there was a rise in deaths of over 18.4% in the first quarter of 2015 compared to 2014. So perhaps slightly less than the 30% rise in one month in England. But still a rise — and averaged over 3 months this may hide a similar peak in January 2015.

Note: it’s the blue-ish dotted line that shows the rise of Deaths in the last quarter, circled.

So then I looked for some sort of explanation by strike action or IT problems or changes in the recording of deaths. I could find evidence of a
24 hr strike in October 2014 and March 2015. But not over the Christmas holiday period which might have explained a backlog and having to catch up recording data in January 2015. In terms of IT it may be that these are lagging statistics — i.e deaths that happened in week 1 to 3 being recorded in week 4. If you see the fall in the graph for death registrations for week 52 this suggests less death being ‘recorded’ — perhaps due to civil service Christmas holidays.

In January 2014 there was an attempt in Parliament to register stillbirths of babies before 24 weeks. I couldn't find evidence this bill was passed into law. But in 2013 there was a recorded 5,700 babies that died during or before birth or within the first four weeks of life. But this may not include the pre-24 week deaths. It also evidences there is a 57% higher risk for women in poverty. So obviously if poverty was increased in 2015 there would have been a significant increase in baby mortality. If say there were more than 475 baby deaths in January 2015 due to an increase in poverty — this may be a factor that could be included in the 30% sudden rise in deaths in January week 4 2015.

Another factor is cancer deaths. There were 161,823 in 2012 so that would be around 13,500 deaths each month. This would be 3,111 each week.

So with a lot of conjecture — “no real 2015 facts” for week 4 2015, my guess:
  • 3,111 weekly cancer deaths
  • 110 weekly baby deaths (based on recorded deaths — I’ve added only 1 due to increased poverty)
  • 36 weekly hypothermia deaths (1876 in 2011 according to the telegraph — almost doubling under the Coalition government)
  • 33 weekly homeless deaths (in 2009 1731 — according to Crisis )
  • 1 weekly benefit sanction death [my own best estimate — based on DNS]
  • 116 weekly suicides — a calculation based on wikipedia
  • 12,593 other deaths (including flu deaths) — assuming 16,000 in week 4 2015.
    Note these are all guesses.

If the Government — including the DWP — was willing to provide detailed and accurate statistics on the number of deaths and their causes people wouldn’t have to guess or speculate and society would be able to focus its efforts and public spending on preventing a higher percentage of these causes of death.

Update: In November 2015 the government attributed the highest rise in Winter deaths since 1999 due to respiratory problems — pollution perhaps or damp housing — where councils are not carrying out repairs?

The ‘NEW’ official line is it was due to flu in over 75s and the vaccine not being effective in 2/3 of cases. Whereas previously they said it was the right type of flu vaccine.

Final Update 2016:
At the end of 2015 again there was a dip and at the beginning of 2016 a rise — but this time the explanation was clearer — as I suggested:

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