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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

EU excess death rate declined in 2021. It’s still high, and Covid is likely to blame

The EU's statistics agency said the drop in excess deaths may be due to Covid vaccination campaigns and periodic lockdowns.

(CN) — Excess mortality — the difference between the number of people who died and the number of people expected to die in a given period — tapered off in the European Union at the end of 2021, but remained 23% higher than averages recorded from 2016 to 2019 according to data published by Eurostat on Wednesday.

“Peaks in 2021 seemed to follow a slightly different pattern, less prominent in comparison with the previous year,” the agency reported. “This could be due to several factors mentioned by health experts: impact of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign, social distancing and restriction measures.”

During November 2020, the EU recorded increases of excess mortality as high as high as 97% in Poland and 94% in Bulgaria. Despite wild variation across the EU, overall spike in deaths averaged 11.9% higher in 2020 over previous years.

In July 2021, average excessive mortality dropped to 6% across the EU before peaking at 26% in November.

Death rates varied by country, with Sweden, Finland and Ireland recording the lowest increases in 2021, all under 5%. Slovakia (60%) and Poland (69%) saw the highest rates of excess mortality in 2021.

Between 2020 and 2021, the EU lost 1.2 million more people compared to deaths recorded from 2016 to 2019. After a long period of growth, the EU's population decreased in 2020, from 447.3 million people to 447 million — a trend attributed to deaths outpacing births.

While increases in death coincided with Covid-19 outbreaks, the data does not delve into causes of death. Still excess mortality is one of several indicators being used by the EU to measure recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, alongside economic and environmental data.

To date, the EU's 27 member states have collectively recorded 394 million infections of the Covid-19 virus and 5.7 million deaths from the disease per the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. The same organization reported 71% of EU residents received initial vaccines against the virus and 48% have been boosted.

In 2016, the leading causes of death for men across the EU were chronic lung disease, heart disease and strokes, according to Eurostat. Leading causes of death in women were breast and colon cancer, as well as heart disease.

In the United States, the increase in excess deaths peaked at 43% in January 2021, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. saw its lowest number of excess deaths in June (5%) before a spike in September (37%) and then settling to 17% at the end of 2021.

Eurostat's mortality data was collected from the European Union and the European Free Trade Association.

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Categories / Health, International

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