A global consortium representing 27 institutions has published findings comparing mortality over the past five years and mortality between January and August 2020 in the first wave of the pandemic. Their results show that some countries had excess mortality for all causes, while other countries had minimal or even reduced excess mortality. Data from the United Kingdom show a significant excess of mortality during the study period.
Led by the University of Nicosia (UNIC) in Cyprus, a study by the Covid-19 Mortality Consortium (C-MOR) was published in International Journal of Epidemiology. The consortium consists of partners from 22 countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Brazil, Australia and several European countries. The analysis of the British data was led by researchers from St George’s University in London.
The group estimated data on weekly or monthly all-cause mortality for each of the countries involved, comparing data from January to August 2020 with baseline data from 2015 to 2019. They used two methods; a comparison of the difference in observed mortality in 2020 with the average of 2015 to 2019 and the difference between observed mortality in 2020 with the expected number of deaths.
The results of the study show that more than the 22 countries involved increased all-cause mortality (Brazil, England, France, Italy, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, the US and Wales). Some of the countries involved recorded reduced excess mortality (Australia, Denmark and Georgia), while other countries made insignificant findings.
An analysis from the United Kingdom showed that the country was found to have particularly high all-cause mortality. England and Wales turned out to have 53,869 deaths, Scotland 3,911 and Northern Ireland 825.
Julia Critchley, a professor of epidemiology at St George’s University in London, said: “Our analysis of the data shows that the UK has greatly increased excess mortality in the first wave of the pandemic.
“It is imperative that we learn from the steps taken when Covid-19 first entered the country, but the delay in an independent public inquiry could take a long time before we get definitive answers as to why the UK has experienced so many more deaths than other comparable countries. Meanwhile, further research is needed as the pandemic continues so that we can better assess the measures taken in different countries with different levels of vaccination and disease burden. “
This study represents the first published analysis of excess mortality for the six countries involved (Cape Verde, Cyprus, Georgia, Ireland, Slovenia and Ukraine).
It is also one of the few studies examining excessive gender-based mortality. While some countries have not shown significant changes in the excess mortality of the entire population, male and female mortality have increased in Israel and Ukraine, and female mortality has increased in Ireland. Further analyzes are needed to better understand the reasons for these gender differences at the international level.
Another unique variable assessed in this study was government restrictive measures. The authors note that countries with higher mortality usually had limited or delayed control measures.
These results represent one of the largest and most comprehensive pandemic mortality studies, which mainly used national and primary sources, as opposed to publicly available datasets.
When faced with this politicized pandemic, the consortium is actively collecting accurate and timely surveillance data. Not only will we continue to monitor the excessive number of deaths, but we will also begin to study the morbidity burden from Covid-19. These analyzes will help us better understand and reduce the multidimensional effects of the virus on health. “
Dr. Christiana Demetriou, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at UNIC School of Medicine
The consortium is now collecting and analyzing data for the full year 2020 to study these trends for longer as the pandemic progresses.
St George’s, University of London
Achilleos, S., et al. (2021) Excessive all-cause mortality and mortality due to COVID-19: a time analysis in 22 countries from January to August 2020. International Journal of Epidemiology. doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyab123.