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WHO releases estimates of 14.9 million excess deaths during COVID-19 pandemic

The estimates show the full death toll caused directly or indirectly by the COVID-19 pandemic between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021


Emerging estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that the full death toll associated – directly or indirectly – with the COVID-19 pandemic between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021 was approximately 14.9 million.  

The calculation was made by focusing on ‘excess mortality’ which is deduced as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would have been expected had there not been an international pandemic.

Excess mortality also includes deaths associated with COVID-19 due to the pandemic’s impact on health systems and wider society.

Deaths linked indirectly to COVID-19 are often attributable to other health conditions for which people were unable to access treatment because systems were overburdened by the pandemic.

The estimated number of excess deaths can also be influenced by other considerations such as deaths averted during the pandemic due to lower risks of certain events, like motor-vehicle accidents or occupational injuries.

The majority of excess deaths – 84% – were concentrated in South-East Asia, Europe and the Americas, while 68% of excess deaths were concentrated in just ten countries globally.

Middle-income countries account for 81% of the 14.9 million excess deaths, with 53% in lower-middle-income countries and 28% in upper-middle-income countries.

The estimates for the 24-month period included a breakdown of excess mortality by age and gender. They confirmed that the global death toll was higher for men than women – 57% male and 43% female – and higher among older adults.

“This sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”

Dr Samira Asma, assistant director-general for data, analytics and delivery at WHO, said: “Measurement of excess mortality is an essential component to understand the impact of the pandemic. Shifts in mortality trends provide decision-makers information to guide policies to reduce mortality and effectively prevent future crises. Because of limited investments in data systems in many countries, the true extent of excess mortality often remains hidden.”

Article by
John Pinching

9th May 2022

From: Healthcare



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