Flu and cold weather contributed towards 50,000 excess winter deaths last year
There were over 50,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales last winter, the highest recorded since 1975/76, according to data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
The increase is thought to be a result of the prevalence of flu last year, alongside ineffectiveness of the flu vaccine and colder than usual temperatures in the 2017/18 winter period, according to the ONS.
The excess winter mortality rate, which compares the numbers of deaths between December and March to the average number of deaths across the rest of the year, continued to be the highest in females and people aged 85 and over.
However, the rate also doubled among males aged 0-64 years between 2016/17 to 2017/18.
Over one third (34.7%) of the excess deaths between 2017/18 were caused by respiratory diseases.
There were also 28% more deaths from circulatory diseases compared with non-winter months, which accounted for nearly a quarter of the excess deaths.
Nick Stripe, health analysis and life events statistician at the ONS, said: 'Peaks like these are not unusual - we have seen more than eight peaks during the last 40 years.'
But Dr Jennie Harries, deputy medical director at Public Health England (PHE), highlighted the importance of all vulnerable groups receiving the flu jab to avoid excess winter deaths.
Dr Harries said: 'The winter of 2017/18 saw an intense flu season and some very cold weather. Such weather particularly affects people who are already vulnerable, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
'We have made new flu vaccines available, including a more effective vaccine for all adults aged 65 and over.'
But her comments come as global supply issues affecting the new over-65s flu vaccine has caused chaos this vaccination season.
Some 2.5m elderly people in England had yet to be vaccinated when the last batch of supplies was delivered towards the end of last month, while in Scotland fewer than four in 10 over-65s were vaccinated.