Winter months are difficult on many of those who live in areas that experience great seasonal changes. The National Center for Health Services actually found that death rates are twice as high in the winter than the hottest part of summer. Not only do we have bundle up and face the chilling weather, there is also a major threat of seasonal illness.
Thus, it is not surprising that individuals have the highest risk of dying from natural causes in the end of December and beginning of January. In fact, one study showed that those who die from natural causes, circulatory problems, respiratory diseases, nutritional/metabolic problems, digestive diseases and cancer have a greater chance of dying between Christmas and New Years than any other time of year.
Not Just in America
While there are no proven reasons for this, there are many theories including increased stress or sadness due to companionship, however there is no direct link. Surprisingly, death rates were not higher in states that experience colder weather and neither were suicide rates, but elderly people may not be as in tune to a health problem while around their loved ones.
Many people attribute feeling under the weather to a myriad of reasons like exposure to more germs, eating too much or changing their schedule. This is not just a pattern in the United States either; there are roughly 25,000-30,000 excess deaths in Britain in the winter months, depending on the year. In 2015, that number turned in 44,000 excess deaths, with some theories pointing to the failure of the flu vaccine, in particular, it’s failure to fight two of the three strains most common that year. In the Netherlands in 2014, there was a 9% increase in deaths as compared to the previous year.
What If Weather is a Factor?
This is an issue that not only affects those without access to healthcare or those who live in lower income areas. Incidents like heat stroke were actually found to be more common in the elderly who were found to live in higher income communities. Infectious diseases were found to be more common in industrialized areas during colder weather, since they spend more time indoors and in closer proximity, exposing to more bacteria.