The U.S. Society of Actuaries Research Institute has issued a report on mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic which includes around 90% of all Group Term Life insurance, thus providing quite a broad picture of excess mortality among the insured during the period up to and including Q1 2022.
As might be expected, 80% of the excess claims over the period are related to COVID-19. In 2020, after the pandemic struck, but before vaccines were available, we see a surge in COVID-19 related excess mortality, but interestingly around a quarter of all the excess mortality is not COVID-19 related. This suggests that lockdowns and restrictions were already having a strong impact on mortality. The vaccination programme started in December 2020 but really took of in Q1 2021 when 172 million doses were administered. The cumulative growth in COVID-19 cases was much slower in Q1 2021 than towards the end of 2020, but interestingly we see a large spike in COVID-19 related excess mortality during this period.
The most interesting period in 2021 however is Q3, where not only COVID-19-related but Non-COVID-19 excess mortality spikes up to almost 9%, then falls in Q4 and remains at around 5% throughout Q1 2022, which is an alarming figure.
When those figures are broken down by age we see a staggering rise in excess mortality in younger age-groups, close to and even up to double the expected mortality for people between 25 and 55. The report does not provide a deeper analysis of this, such as breaking it down according to cause of death. So, what might cause the deaths of twice as many people in their prime of life compared with what might be expected in a normal situation? What was different?
First, the vaccine rollout in early 2021 was primarily focused on the older age groups while the vaccination rates for the younger ones started increasing in the latter part of the year, and this coincided with and was no doubt driven by increased pressure to get vaccinated, including mandates and relentless propaganda and ostracisation. So that could be a factor. Second, we must look to the harm done by lockdowns and restrictions, though this wouldn‘t explain this sudden spike in Q3 2021.
The report provides a useful comparison of the relationship between excess mortality and vaccination rates by state in two different periods. In July-September 2021, we see quite a strong inverse correlation between the two factors. But in the period October 2021 to March 2022, this relationship has almost disappeared. This result fits well with figures from other parts of the world which in January of this year showed how after the emergence of the Omicron variant the protective effect of the vaccines disappeared or even became negative.
The SOA report provides good data on mortality during the pandemic and it will be interesting to see how Q2 this year plays out, given that we see indications of worrying excess mortality not explained by COVID-19 in many countries. Further analysis, especially of the staggering mortality figures among younger people, is urgently needed. It is high time to recognise and honestly start focusing on the potentially devastating effect of the mass-vaccination drive.
Thorsteinn Siglaugsson is an economist, consultant and writer based in Iceland. You can subscribe to his Substack newsletter here.