Are We Starting to See the Impact of Lockdown on Mortality?

The ONS announced on Friday that there were 44,474 deaths registered in England in September, which is about 4,000 more than in August, and 19.4% more than the five-year average.

19.4% is a non-trivial number, which makes this report slightly concerning. Last September, for example, the number of deaths registered in England was only 7% more than the five-year average.

If we look at the breakdown in the chart below, we see that Covid was the third leading cause of death. Interestingly, however, several other causes of death were above their five-year averages. This is in contrast to the situation in August, where eight out of nine other causes were below their five-year averages.

Notably, the age-standardised rates of death from dementia and Alzheimer’s, and from ischemic heart disease, were both above their five-year averages. Given that these are not respiratory conditions, the disparities are unlikely to be due to misattribution of deaths that were really caused by Covid.

The age-standardised rates of death from chronic lower respiratory diseases, from ill-defined conditions, and from colon and rectal cancers, were also above their five-year averages; although in the latter case, the disparity was negligible.

September’s overall age-standardised mortality rate was 11.2% higher than the five-year average, and was approximately equal to the value for March, which coincided with the final part of the second wave. This chart from the ONS shows the age-standardised mortality rate for the first nine months of the year, each year, going back to 2001:

Although the picture is basically the same as last month, cumulative mortality to date was slightly higher, as compared to previous years. However, the first nine months of this year were still less deadly than the corresponding period in 2015.

September witnessed the highest level of mortality since the end of the second wave. More interestingly, it was the first month of the year in which several causes of death other than Covid were above their five-year averages. After months of disruption to healthcare access and provision, are we now seeing the impact of lockdown on mortality?

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