Steve Halliwell's health fears comp image: Steve and Zak Dingle in a bubble

Emmerdale: Steve Halliwell’s multiple health battles as fans feared for Zak Dingle legend

He had looked frail on screen recently

Emmerdale star Steve Halliwell has died aged 77 it has been announced today (Friday December 15). Although his cause of death has not been revealed, fans had been increasingly concerned for his health in recent years.

He has not been seen on screen for long stretches of time as legendary Zak Dingle. And when he has appeared, he has been mostly sitting down looking frail. The soap even did a storyline earlier this year where he confessed to having mobility issues.

In real life, Steve underwent a secret health battle in 2018 after a mysterious absence from screens.

Zak Dingle and Steve will be much missed (Credit: ITV)

Emmerdale star Steve Halliwell dies aged 77

The soap released a statement this afternoon confirming the Zak Dingle actor had died “peacefully”. His family also shared a moving tribute.

“He went to sleep, peacefully with his loved ones around him,” they said.

“He was making us laugh to the end, the most amazing father and grandfather you could ever wish for, family was everything to him. We would like to thank the wonderful staff at St James Hospital and the Wheatfield Hospice for their love and kindness in his final days. He didn’t want sadness, just to rejoice in a life well lived.”

Steve Halliwell's health battles: head shot of Steve at the British Soap Awards
The actor has been very open about his health struggles in the past (Credit:

Steve Halliwell’s health battle

Steve disappeared from Emmerdale back in 2018 due to health concerns. After five months off screen the actor explained why Zak had really been missing. He was rushed to hospital for a life-or-death operation on his heart.

The Sun Online explained that the Lancashire-born actor had a pacemaker fitted in September 2018, after suffering serious heart problems.

At the time the actor told the newspaper’s website: “I’m back at work in a few weeks and feeling fitter than ever after having a pacemaker fitted in September.

“It’s done me the world of good and I feel fantastic.”

He went on to say how understanding and “brilliant” his employers had been, saying: “Emmerdale has been brilliant throughout and really looked after me.

“I did have to spend some time in hospital and it was really funny to see the entire Dingle clan around my bed.

“Everyone has been so considerate and I know it sounds a bit of a cliché, but we really are one big happy family.”

Steve Halliwell’s mental health

Steve was also open about his mental health battles in the past. He went to rehab in 2003 for alcohol issues and took a break from Emmerdale then too.

He spoke to The Mirror in 2014 about the battle, saying: “There’s depression, drinking and having to fight your way out of situations.

“I’ve lived all those things – and more.”

Zak Dingle points his finger as he talks seriously
Zak’s health on-screen had had fans worried (Credit: ITV)

Fan fears for Zak Dingle in Emmerdale

More recently, fans had been worried for Steve Halliwell’s health after seeing him on screen. Although Zak had spent much of his time staying in Scotland with granddaughter Debbie, he did pop back every now and then. However, when he was seen on screen, he was always sitting down.

Back in June it became clear he was hiding a secret and only Cain knew about it. Chas questioned them when she realised something was going on and Zak told her his health was deteriorating.

Zak’s legs had been playing up. Cain only knew about Zak’s declining health because he’d found him on the floor unable to get up.

Emmerdale fans were worried for Zak – and Steve – after this shock health confession.

One fan wrote: “Zak is getting more and more frail,” followed by a crying emoji.

Another tweeted: “Poor Zak’s a mere slip of a man compared to the beast he was when he first arrived in the village.”

A third viewer commented: “Zak looks extremely ill,” while a fourth agreed: “Zak is getting more frail. I’m not liking that!”

Months earlier, viewers had also noted how poorly he seemed, with several commenting: “Zak looks unwell.”

Lisa and Zak in Emmerdale hold hands and look emotional
Lisa and Zak were soulmates torn apart by her untimely death (Credit: ITV)

Who was Zak Dingle in Emmerdale?

Zak Dingle was the head of the Dingle clan. He was the father to Nathan, Butch, Ben, Cain, Sam, Tina and Belle.

His first wife was Nellie Lynch, but his true soulmate was Lisa Clegg who he married in 1998. Lisa gave birth to Belle the same year, unaware she was pregnant.

Meanwhile Zak’s son Cain was born after Zak had an affair with Faith Dingle, Zak’s sister-in-law who was married to his brother Shadrach.

And his cheating pattern continued when in 2015, Belle was furious to find out Zak had been having an affair with their lodger Joanie Wright.

Zak and Lisa divorced in 2016 and the same year he married Joanie. But their marriage didn’t last as she ended their relationship just a few months later when Zak didn’t want to move away from the village.

In December 2016, Joanie was sentenced to a month in prison after assaulting a police officer. In January 2017, Lisa went to pick her up but she went into cardiac arrest and died in the van.

Eventually Zak and Lisa reconciled. In 2018, the couple went to Scotland where they discovered Lisa was terminally ill. Lisa and Zak returned to the village in 2019 and revealed that Lisa had a condition called amyloidosis.

Zak proposed to Lisa and the couple got married just a few days later. However during the wedding, Lisa returned to Wishing Well cottage where she died. The Dingle family – especially Zak – were devastated by her death.

Emmerdale - Zak Reveals His Secret To Chas (20th June 2023)

Emmerdale usually airs weeknights at 7.30pm on ITV, with an hour episode on Thursdays.

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Carena Crawford
Associate Editor (Soaps)