The ONS announced last week that there were 43,435 deaths registered in England in October, which is about 1,000 less than in September, and 7.1% more than the five-year average.
This is a marked change from last month, when total deaths were 19.4% above the five-year average. Looking at the breakdown by leading cause of death, it is also quite different from September’s:
Last month, several non-Covid causes of death were above their five-year averages, notably dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as ischemic heart disease. In October, by contrast, all non-Covid causes other than “Symptoms signs and ill-defined conditions” are below their five-year averages.
This suggests that my concerns about the delayed impact of lockdown on mortality may have been misplaced. In other words: last month’s elevated rates of death from non-Covid causes may have been a blip, rather than the start of trend toward rising mortality.
October’s overall age-standardised mortality rate was approximately equal to the five-year average – 0.1% lower, in fact. Again, this is a marked change from last month, when the age-standardised mortality rate was 11.2% higher than the five-year average.
Since age-adjusted excess mortality is the best gauge of how mortality is changing, the fact that October’s value is about equal to the five-year average indicates that any impact of lockdown on mortality must be relatively small. Here’s my updated chart of excess mortality in England since January of 2020:
Various newspapers have reported a large excess of non-Covid deaths in England over the past four months. However, these claims appear to be based on absolute excess deaths, rather than age-adjusted excess mortality.
In October, there were more than 2,000 non-Covid deaths in excess of the five-year average. Yet as I already mentioned, age-adjusted excess mortality was approximately zero – and that includes the Covid deaths. This means that the most of the ‘excess’ non-Covid deaths we’ve seen recently are due to population ageing over the last two years.
All in all, October’s figures are more encouraging than September’s, giving no indication that mortality is unusually high. Let’s just hope it stays that way.