Highest proportion of deaths due to flu and pneumonia since pre-pandemic

Deaths due to flu and pneumonia accounted for nearly one in 10 of all deaths registered in England and Wales at the start of the year, the highest proportion since before the pandemic, figures show.

Some 1,383 deaths registered in the week to January 6 had flu and pneumonia recorded as the underlying cause, 9% of the total.

The weekly figure peaked at 7% in the pre-Covid winter of 2019/20.

It follows a surge in flu cases in the weeks before Christmas, which the UK Health Security Agency described as the worst flu season for a decade.

HEALTH Deaths
(PA Graphics)

The data has been published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and also shows the number of registered deaths continues to be well above average for the time of year.

Some 14% more deaths than usual were registered in England and Wales in the week to January 6, following 20% above average in the previous week and 21% in the week to December 23.

The spike in extra deaths – known as excess deaths – is likely to reflect a number of factors, including the rise in flu cases as well as colder weather, Covid-19 and access to emergency care.

Deaths in England and Wales were mostly below average during the early months of 2022, but started to run higher than usual in April and have been above average in almost every week since June.

There have been 26,952 excess deaths since the start of August, of which more than half (14,489, or 54%) have occurred in private homes.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

Covid-19 deaths continue to account for a very small proportion of deaths in England and Wales, with 4% of those registered in the week to January 6 directly due to coronavirus and 5% mentioning it somewhere on the death certificate.

By contrast, 24% of deaths in the latest week had flu and pneumonia mentioned somewhere on the death certificate, either as the underlying cause or a contributory factor – the highest percentage since February 2021.

Total deaths in England and Wales were above average in 2020 and 2021, but in both years Covid-19 was the main cause.

In 2022 coronavirus is thought to have played a smaller role in causing excess deaths, alongside factors such as flu, the weather – including the summer heatwave – pressures on the NHS and access to medical services.