All cause mortality will better evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on deaths

All cause mortality will pick up deaths caused:

  • directly by the virus (eg: respiratory failure),
  • because another disease worsened by the impact of the virus (eg: COVID-19 predisposed to a heart attack), and
  • due to non-presentation or treatment of a disease due to the COVID-19 lockdowns and changes to outpatient and inpatient medical systems

Official statistics are significantly underestimating the true death toll across the world. To calculate excess deaths, the Financial Times compared deaths from all causes in the weeks of a location’s outbreak in March and April 2020 to the average for the same period between 2015 and 2019. The total of 122,000 amounts to a 50 per cent rise in overall mortality relative to the historical average for the locations studied.

The ABC reports that for the UK alone the number of ‘excess deaths’ – deaths above a usual year – have more than doubled in recent weeks, with 22,351 in the week ending 17 April. A normal year would have 10,000 deaths.

While some of these deaths may be due to other causes than COVID-19, the fact the death rate is so much higher than a normal year indicates the pandemic is playing a major role.

The surge in all-cause mortality suggests either an underreporting of COVID-19 deaths, or increases in other causes of mortality because people are avoiding healthcare.

Read more on: Financial Times.

Dr Lachlan Soper