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Last year nine pensioners died every hour, because of the cold

By Laura Nineham, on 24 November 2010

Last year, an average of nine elderly people died every hour because of an illness related to the cold, official figures have shown.

As reported by The Daily Mail, there were over 25,400 deaths linked to the cold during a four month period.

The good news is that the death rate is 30 per cent lower than the 2008/09 winter, but that's because there were fewer flu outbreaks, according to the Office for National Statistics.

However, it's feared the rate will be much higher this winter, because the government hasn't raised the Winter Fuel Allowance despite some people facing a significant raise in energy costs.

"Around 3.5 million pensioner households are spending more than 10 per cent of their income on fuel bills and are living in fuel poverty, "said Dot Gibson from the National Pensioners Convention. "What these people need now is more money so they can avoid having to decide whether to heat or eat."

The Daily Mail claims that Scottish Power is increasing their prices by 8.9 per cent; Scottish & Southern Electricity is charging almost 10 per cent more for gas; and bills from British Gas are set to go up by 7 per cent.

"The simple fact that the UK has one of the highest mortality rates in Europe - higher than even Sweden or Finland - makes it clear this is very much a home-grown problem," explained Michelle Mitchell, director of Age UK.

This has led to calls for the Government's Energy Bill - which will be published next month - to include a programme to insulate homes. "Living in a cold, damp house can make heart disease and strokes more likely," explained Dave Timms from Friends of the Earth. "It's a disgrace that millions of vulnerable people in Britain live in homes lacking basic insulation."

Insulation is perhaps the most effective way that elderly people can protect themselves against the harshness of winter. With the help of trusted tradesmen, the elderly can improve the energy efficiency of their homes to keep them warmer for longer, and reduce heating bills.

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