This Blog was written by: Robert Boyd
We all experienced the stark reminder that winter is coming, with the initial flurries of snow fall last week (at least in Toronto & Calgary) but the prolonged effects of cold weather have varying effect depending on your age and personal circumstances. Terrible Game of Thrones puns aside, when one looks at the death rate across Canada by month, it is very clear that there is a big spike in December and January of each year.
There are many factors that can be attributed to this spike in death rates but the most plausible explanation is the change in weather. The cooling of outdoor temperatures aggravates existing conditions that results in many premature deaths and research has shown that colds and influenza spread more effectively in cold weather. This trend is not unique to Canada, in fact for every degree the temperature drops below 18C in the UK, deaths increase by nearly 1.5%. As the temperature in Canada can drop drastically lower than 18C in January, this would be the most rational explanation. From a more anecdotal perspective, the increase in other ailments, increased interaction with the elderly over the holidays, treacherous road conditions, less sunlight & in turn less vitamin D produced to bolster the immune system, power outages, people in remote areas may be more susceptible to cold weather in the event of a service malfunction and the fact that January is viewed as the bleakest month of the year could all be attributed to the increase in death rates as this time of year. One colleague of mine suggested that the psychological impact of staying alive until the end of the year may also be a factor, which could very well be true.
The pragmatic view would be that it is a combination of all factors that culminate in an increased death rate over the winter months with the main catalyst being the change in the weather.
If anyone has any other theories I would love to hear them.
Happy Winter & stay warm.