Deaths Involving COVID-19

Author(s): Office for National Statistics



Excess mortality captures the total effect of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on mortality and is not affected by misspecification of cause of death. We aimed to describe how health and demographic factors were associated with excess mortality during, compared to before, the pandemic.

Methods and findings

We analysed a time series dataset including 9,635,613 adults (≥40 years old) registered at United Kingdom general practices contributing to the Clinical Practice Research Datalink. We extracted weekly numbers of deaths and numbers at risk between March 2015 and July 2020, stratified by individual-level factors. Excess mortality during Wave 1 of the UK pandemic (5 March to 27 May 2020) compared to the prepandemic period was estimated using seasonally adjusted negative binomial regression models. Relative rates (RRs) of death for a range of factors were estimated before and during Wave 1 by including interaction terms. We found that all-cause mortality increased by 43% (95% CI 40% to 47%) during Wave 1 compared with prepandemic. Changes to the RR of death associated with most sociodemographic and clinical characteristics were small during Wave 1 compared with prepandemic. However, the mortality RR associated with dementia markedly increased (RR for dementia versus no dementia prepandemic: 3.5, 95% CI 3.4 to 3.5; RR during Wave 1: 5.1, 4.9 to 5.3); a similar pattern was seen for learning disabilities (RR prepandemic: 3.6, 3.4 to 3.5; during Wave 1: 4.8, 4.4 to 5.3), for black or South Asian ethnicity compared to white, and for London compared to other regions. Relative risks for morbidities were stable in multiple sensitivity analyses. However, a limitation of the study is that we cannot assume that the risks observed during Wave 1 would apply to other waves due to changes in population behaviour, virus transmission, and risk perception.

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