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About 1 Million Excess Deaths Reported in 29 High-Income Countries in 2020

All 29 high-income countries had excess deaths except New Zealand, Norway, Denmark; absolute number of deaths highest in U.S., Italy, U.K.

THURSDAY, May 20, 2021 (HealthDay News) — In 29 high-income countries, there were about 1 million excess deaths in 2020, according to a study published online May 19 in The BMJ.

Nazrul Islam, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and colleagues estimated the direct and indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mortality in 2020 in 29 high-income countries. Weekly excess deaths were estimated by sex and age in a model accounting for temporal trends and seasonal variability in mortality.

The researchers found that in the 29 high-income countries analyzed, there were an estimated 979,000 excess deaths in 2020. All countries had excess deaths except for New Zealand, Norway, and Denmark. The United States, Italy, England and Wales, Spain, and Poland had the highest absolute number of excess deaths (458,000; 89,100; 85,400; 84,100; and 60,100, respectively). Lower overall mortality than expected was seen in New Zealand (−2,500). The estimated number of excess deaths substantially exceeded the number of reported deaths from COVID-19 in many countries. The highest excess death rates per 100,000 were in Lithuania, Poland, Spain, Hungary, and Italy for men and in Lithuania, Spain, Hungary, Slovenia, and Belgium for women.

“Although mortality is a useful metric, policy informed by deaths alone overlooks what may become a huge burden of long term morbidity resulting from COVID-19,” write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

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