There were an estimated 43,900 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in 2014/15, the highest number since 1999/00, official figures show.
The number of excess deaths was a jump of 151% on the previous winter, and the biggest year-on-year rise since 1967/68.
The majority of deaths occurred in people aged 75 or over, and respiratory diseases were the underlying cause of death in more than a third of cases, the figures from the Office for National Statistics show.
There were more excess winter deaths in females than in males in 2014/15, as in previous years.
Male excess winter deaths increased from 7,210 to 18,400, and female deaths from 10,250 to 25,500 between 2013/14 and 2014/15.
This was put down at least partly to there being a greater proportion of women among the older age groups than men.
Respiratory diseases were the underlying cause of death in more than a third of all excess winter deaths in 2014/15, with pneumonia accounting for the largest proportion of these deaths.
Last winter also saw a record high in deaths caused by dementia and Alzheimer's disease, with 9,100 excess winter deaths recorded.
The paper said this rise "may be related to the greater vulnerability of people with these conditions to respiratory diseases, difficulties with self-care, and falls, all of which may be more important in winter months".
The excess winter mortality index was highest in the South West in 2014/15 and joint lowest in Yorkshire and The Humber, and Wales.
Excess winter mortality is defined by the researchers as the deaths occurring in the winter period, December to March, compared to the rest of the year. In common with other countries, in England and Wales more people die in winter than in summer.
At midday today, National Pensioners Convention members will highlight the scale of winter deaths among the country's older population by releasing one black balloon for every 1,000 people who died last winter from cold related illnesses. The demonstration will take place at Westminster.
Sophie Neuburg, Friends Of The Earth fuel poverty campaigner, said: "These are appalling figures that ministers cannot ignore.
"The Government's refusal to invest properly in home insulation shows a callous disregard for the thousands of people who die each year because they can't afford to heat their homes.
"A large-scale, publicly-funded energy efficiency programme is urgently needed to create jobs, cut emissions and save the lives of some of the UK's most vulnerable people."