Population perspective comparing COVID-19 to all and common causes of death during the first wave of the pandemic in seven European countries

Bayanne Olabi, Jayshree Bagaria, Sunil Bhopal, Gwenetta Curry, Nazmy Villarroel, Raj Bhopal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Mortality statistics on the COVID-19 pandemic have led to widespread concern and fear. To contextualise these data, we compared mortality related to COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic across seven countries in Europe with all and common causes of death, stratifying by age and sex. We also calculated deaths as a proportion of the population by age and sex.Methods: COVID-19 related mortality and population statistics from seven European countries were extracted: England and Wales, Italy, Germany, Spain, France, Portugal and Netherlands. Available data spanned 14-16 weeks since the first recorded deaths in each country, except Spain, where only comparable stratified data over an 8-week time period was available. The Global Burden of Disease database provided data on all deaths and those from pneumonia, cardiovascular disease combining ischaemic heart disease and stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, road traffic accidents and dementia in 2017.Findings: Deaths related to COVID-19, while modest overall, varied considerably by age. Deaths as a percentage of all cause deaths during the time period under study ranged from <0.01% in children in Germany, Portugal and Netherlands, to as high as 41.65% for men aged over 80 years in England and Wales. The percentage of the population who died from COVID-19 was less than 0.2% in every age group under the age of 80. In each country, over the age of 80, these proportions were: England and Wales 1.27% males, 0.87% females; Italy0.6% males, 0.38% females; Germany 0.13% males, 0.09% females; France 0.39% males, 0.2% females; Portugal 0.2% males, 0.15% females; and Netherlands 0.6% males, 0.4% females.Interpretation: Mortality rates from COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic were low including when compared to other common causes of death and are likely to decline further while control measures are maintained, treatments improve and vaccination is instituted. These data may help people to contextualise their risk and for decision-making by policymakers.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberPUHIP-D-20-00280
JournalPublic Health in Practice
Early online date15 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jan 2021


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