The ONS announced today that there were 35,401 deaths registered in England in May, which is 9% less than in March, and 10.7% less than the five-year average. As I keep mentioning, however, the best overall measure of mortality isn’t the number of deaths, but rather the age-standardised mortality rate.
In May, the age-standardised mortality rate was 12% lower than in April, and a remarkable 16.7% lower than the five-year average. Like April’s figure, it was the lowest on record for that month. In fact, it was the second-lowest figure on record for any month. (The only lower figure was last August’s age-standardised mortality rate.)
This means that the last two months have both seen recorded-breakingly low levels of mortality. (The ONS’s dataset goes back as far as 2001, and given that mortality has been decreasing more-or-less continuously for the past few decades, April and May’s figures were probably the lowest ever.)
This chart from the ONS shows the age-standardised mortality rate for the first five months of the year, each year, going back to 2001:
Although 2021’s figure was higher than the figure for 2019, it was 2.2% lower than the figure for 2015 and 2.5% lower than the figure for 2018. This means that – despite higher-than-expected mortality in January and February – the overall level of mortality in the first five months of 2021 was actually lower than three years before.
The past three months have “cancelled out” more than 70% of the age-adjusted excess mortality observed in January and February. If June’s age-standardised mortality rate comes in as low as May’s, the overall level of mortality in the first five months of 2021 will be below the five-year average.
Stop Press: MailOnline reports that COVID-19 was the 24th leading cause of death in England in May, and made up fewer than 1% of all fatalities.