expert reaction to the ONS monthly mortality analysis for England and Wales: March 2021


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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have released their monthly mortality analysis for England and Wales in March 2021.

Prof Kevin McConway, Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics, The Open University, said:

“It’s very good news to see that Covid-19 has been pushed off its depressing position as the leading cause of death in England in March – and I expect it to have gone even further down this list when the April analysis comes out. But it’s also enlightening to look at the death rates from other leading causes of death, and compare them with the average death rates from those causes in 2015-19. The biggest falls are in dementia and Alzheimer disease, in chronic lower respiratory diseases (which would include COPD), and in influenza and pneumonia. These are all diseases that would often cause death in elderly people who might well be frail. A strong possibility is that many of those who would be expected to have died from those causes in March would have died previously during the pandemic, from Covid-19. For influenza and pneumonia, the fall in death rates is really large – in March they were considerably under half the average rates from 2015-19. Again deaths from those causes often happen in people who are old and/or frail, and sadly some who would have died in March would have been carried off earlier by Covid-19. But also, the lockdown restrictions and social distancing reduce infections from all respiratory diseases, not just Covid-19, so they would have brought down flu and pneumonia deaths too. Death rates from other causes, such as ischaemic heart disease (heart attacks etc.), cerebrovascular diseases (strokes etc.), and lung cancers were down too, though not so much. Indeed, in the data for England, only one of the ten leading causes apart from Covid-19 had a higher death rate in March than the 2015-19 average, namely bowel cancers, and there the rate had increased only very slightly (by less than 1%), so that there is no clear evidence of an upward trend.”



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