More people die due to harsh winter

The cold and long winter has caused the mortality rate among elderly people to go up significantly. That's according to the Flemish daily Het Laatste Nieuws. Over the past three months, 647 more Belgians died than on average.

It's especially seniors above 85 years of age that suffered most. When winter struck for the first time, in December, 1,637 people died in that category. That's 12 percent above normal levels.

After the second cold spell, in the second week of January, the rise  had even increased to 16.5 percent. "Alarming figures", says geriatrician Lucien De Cock in Het Laatste Nieuws. "Luckily, the flu did not strike very hard this winter, otherwise the figures could have been much worse."

"More people catch an infection or a cold. But on top of that, they receive fewer visits as friends or relatives skip a visit because of icy roads. And many also tend to get depressed due to a lack of daylight."