COVID-19: An Estimated 979 000 Excess Deaths Occurred in 2020 in 29 High-Income Countries

A recent epidemiological study published in the British Medical Journal reports on the additional deaths attributable to Covid-19 in 29 developed countries by 2020, estimating that there were nearly one million “excess” deaths that year alone.



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During the pandemic, it was said that Covid-19 was just like the seasonal flu that didn’t kill that many people, and that those who did die would have died anyway. An epidemiological study suggests that the absolute number of additional deaths from the pandemic in 2020 was between 979 000 and one million people.

A global assessment

To assess the overall impact of the pandemic on mortality, the statisticians and epidemiologists involved in this study measured excess mortality by calculating the difference between the number of deaths from all causes during the pandemic and the expected number of deaths based on a reference history of past years. This avoids certain methodological biases and takes into account all effects of the pandemic, not just covid-19 infection as a necessary and sufficient cause of mortality.

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Excess mortality in – almost – all countries.

With the exception of New Zealand, Denmark, and Norway, all countries included in the statistical analysis have had excess mortality in 2020. These excesses mainly affected people over sixty-five, who were mostly men, in almost all the countries studied. A decrease in the mortality rate was observed in young people under fifteen years of age.

Excess mortality generally occurred in spring, fall, and winter. Unfortunately, the researchers did not have enough data to determine excess mortality by other important factors such as socioeconomic level.

Finally, the researchers noted in their study that in some countries, excess mortality is greater than the number of reported cases of Covid-19. This may be due to people dying because of the side effects of the pandemic on the health systems, but it also shows that the number of known cases is generally lower than the number of actual cases.

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Excess deaths associated with the covid-19 pandemic in 2020: age and sex disaggregated time series analysis in 29 high-income countries

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