Abstract:

Excess mortality data avoid miscounting deaths from the under-reporting of Covid-19-related deaths and other health conditions left untreated. Excess mortality is defined as actual deaths from all causes, minus ‘normal’ deaths. This article assesses the comparability of data on excess mortality between countries and regions, it reviews the available data sources, and compares and contrasts different statistical measures of excess mortality. Now that the first wave of the pandemic is over for most European countries, the time has come for robust European comparisons. Our preferred measure of excess deaths relative to normal deaths, the more transparent and comparable P-score, is calculated for European countries with high rates of excess mortality during the Covid-19 pandemic. For the ‘all age’ group and especially for the working age group, ‘15-64’, England has had the highest rates of excess mortality. Spain had the highest cumulative P-score over the pandemic weeks for the ‘over 85’ age group. We address issues of international data and comparability on the extent of deaths among the care home residents. Generally, research is needed into divergent patterns of excess mortality between and within countries. Excess mortality measures can be compared in cross-tabulation and correlations controlling for common features like density by region, to propose policy hypotheses. Modellers should have ready access to transparent, comparable international data to a granular level to test such hypotheses to aid policy making for potential further waves of the pandemic. We suggest how international statistical agencies and national statistical agencies could publish improved measures of excess mortality.

Citation:

Aron, J., Giattino, C., Muellbauer, J. & Ritchie, H. (2020). 'A pandemic primer on excess mortality statistics and their comparability across countries'. Our World in Data blog post, 29 June 2020. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-excess-mortality
Download Document (pdf, 982.642 KB)