Excess deaths and Covid-19 related deaths 15.4% above expected levels in March – December 2020

Dessie Blackadder

Reporter:

Dessie Blackadder

Latest figures published by NISRA show that there were 1,958 excess deaths from 1st March to 31st December 2020, 15.4% above expected levels.

The figures also show that in the same period, there were 1,903 Covid-19 related deaths.

Excess deaths are a mathematical concept based on the difference between actual deaths from all causes in a period minus the expected number of deaths based on the average deaths for the same period over the last five years.

The number of excess deaths for males (1,045) is higher than that for females (913), whilst the number of Covid-19 related deaths is slightly lower (948 male compared to 955 female deaths).

Three-quarters of excess deaths (74.9%) and Covid-19 related deaths (77.8%) are accounted for by those aged 75 and over.

In this age group, the number of excess deaths were 17.9% above expected levels, compared to 15.4% for all ages.

The highest excess deaths as a proportion of expected levels were found for those aged 55 to 64 (older working age) in both males (21.6%) and females (18.7%).

The number of deaths in hospitals was slightly higher (+1.8%) than expected levels, as a combined effect of 1,156 Covid-19 related deaths occurring in hospitals but 1,046 fewer non Covid-19 deaths in hospital.

In contrast, there were more non Covid-19 deaths occurring at home: combined with the 119 Covid-19 related deaths at home, this resulted in the majority of excess deaths (1,395 or 71.3%) occurring at home.

Belfast LGD had the largest number of excess deaths (310), accounting for 15.8% of excess deaths in Northern Ireland.

However, Antrim & Newtownabbey LGD had the highest excess deaths as a proportion above expected levels (28.1%), while Derry City & Strabane LGD had the lowest (7.4%).

Excess deaths were highest in the two least deprived areas, with around a 19% increase in deaths in both, compared to expected levels.

In the first three months of the pandemic (March to May 2020), Covid-19 was found to be the underlying cause for 706 deaths, accounting for 79.0% of the 894 excess deaths in that period. Deaths due to malignant neoplasm (+6.8%) and dementia/Alzheimer’s disease (+13.1%) were above historical levels, whilst there were fewer respiratory deaths (-14.3%) compared to the previous five years.

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