'Excess Winter Mortality, 2020-2021', a paper published by NISRA this morning, estimated excess winter mortality (EWM) by comparing the winter months of December to March with the average of the four-month periods before and after this period.
"In 2020/21, the highest regional EWMI was in Mid Ulster LGD, where 44.0 per cent more deaths occurred in the winter months. This was followed by Mid and East Antrim (37.6 per cent). Ards and North Down (7.3 per cent) had the lowest proportion of excess winter deaths in 2020/21 followed by Derry City and Strabane (8.6 per cent).
"Looking at the regional EWMIs over time there is no one LGD which consistently has a higher proportion of excess winter deaths each year; rather the indices show notable fluctuation over time across the Districts," the report states.
The paper points out that In the winter period (December to March) of 2020/21 there were 6,340 deaths in the north which was the second highest number of winter deaths in the last 10 years.
The authors explain: "Comparing this with the average number of deaths for the two adjacent, ‘non-winter’ four-month periods (the previous August to November 2020 and the following April to July 2021), the seasonal increase in mortality (i.e. excess winter mortality) for winter 2020/21 was estimated to be 1,120.
"This was 590 more than the corresponding estimate for the previous winter (5301 in 2019/20), and higher than levels seen since winter 1999/2000, with the exception of 2017/18 when a large influenza epidemic took place."
The report points to the dramatic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Without the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, excess winter mortality in winter 2020/21 is estimated to have been 200, the lowest since EWM records started in 1980/81. This is because the majority of deaths caused by Covid-19 in the year being analysed took place in the winter, therefore greatly inflating the overall total of winter deaths, especially compared to the non-winter period," the paper says.
Women accounted for a greater proportion of deaths than men.
"EWM continued to be higher in females compared with males, with females accounting for 53.4 per cent (600) and males counting for 46.6 per cent (520) of the excess winter mortality in 2020/21."