The ONS announced last week that there were 49,807 deaths registered in England in January, which is 380 more than in December, but 10.2% less than the five-year average.
Age-standardised mortality rates for leading causes of death other than Covid were well below their five-year averages. However, the ONS now computes the five-year averages from 2016–2019 plus 2021, rather than 2015–2019, meaning that the latest figures are not directly comparable with those for previous months.
In the remainder of this post, I will use the five-year average from 2015–2019 – for the sake of consistency with previous posts.
January’s overall age-standardised mortality rate was 14.3% lower than the five-year average, and the second lowest on record. This represents a marked change from the previous two months, when the age-standardised mortality rate exceeded the five-year average. Here’s my updated chart of excess mortality in England since January of 2020:
The substantial drop in excess mortality in the month of January suggests, once again, that deaths were ‘brought forward’ by the pandemic. In other words, some of those who died during the Omicron wave would have died soon anyway.
This commonly observed phenomenon is known as mortality displacement. Looking at the chart above, it can also be seen in the summer of 2020 and the spring of 2021.
In fact, if you take the average age-standardised mortality rate from June of 2020 to January of 2022, and compare it to the five-year average, there was only 2% excess mortality over this time period. In other words, there’ve been hardly any excess deaths since the end of the first wave.
Note that the official death toll in England increased by more than 100,000 between June of 2020 and January of 2022.
The latest figures provide the strongest indication yet that the pandemic in England is over. Now we just have the collateral damage of lockdowns, mask mandates and vaccine passports to deal with.
This post has been updated.