There were an estimated 23,200 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in 2018-19 – the lowest recorded since winter 2013-14, figures show.

This was a “statistically significant” drop from the previous winter of 2017-18 when there were 49,410 excess winter deaths – the highest level since 1975-76.

The data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published on Wednesday, also showed that respiratory diseases continued to be the leading cause of excess winter deaths.

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Respiratory diseases accounted for 40.6% of all excess winter deaths in England and 42.9% in Wales.

The ONS report said the decrease in excess winter deaths was likely to be down to milder weather compared to the previous winter and the lower impact of flu on the elderly in 2018-19.

It added: “The substantial reductions observed in both England and Wales since the previous winter shows the fluctuations in EWM (excess winter deaths).

“The recent decreases are likely related to the milder weather experienced in the winter months compared with the previous winter and the lower impact of influenza on the elderly in 2018 to 2019, and supports improvement in the efficacy of influenza vaccines.”

Excess winter mortality continued to be higher in women compared with men, and was highest in females aged 90 years and over, the ONS added.

In England there were an estimated 21,900 excess winter deaths in 2018-19 with 46% among men and 54% among women.

The number of excess winter deaths between December 2018 and March 2019 was the fourth lowest since records began in 1950-51.

The highest peak in daily deaths during this period occurred on February 1 which coincided with the coldest winter day on January 31 with a maximum temperature in England of 1.7C, the ONS said.

It added that this peak was much later than in previous winter months where it normally happens towards the beginning of January.