The COVID restriction in England was lifted on July 19. Despite the current surge in COVID cases among school children and their parents’ age groups, many believe that the worst period of the pandemic has passed. Due to the tremendous effectiveness of the COVID vaccine, further blockade seems unlikely. However, looking at recent mortality data shows that everything has not returned to normal.
Since the beginning of July, the death toll in England and Wales has been nearly 13,000 more than the average for the same period in 2015-19. As of the week of September 24, the new death toll was 1,420. Compared with the first wave of the darkest days, these numbers are small, when the excess death toll in the two countries exceeded 11,000 per week, but it is still considerable. Surprisingly, they did not get more attention.
Perhaps the most striking thing about recent mortality data is that only about half of these excess deaths come directly from COVID. So, what are the other reasons people die in the pre-pandemic period in 2021?
Analysis by the Public Health Department of the United Kingdom shows that compared with the same month five years before the pandemic, more people have died of cardiovascular disease, liver disease and diabetes in recent months.
But are these deaths really unexpected? The UK’s population is growing and aging-both of these factors mean that we expect the number of deaths to gradually increase over time.
An independent research organization that specializes in analyzing mortality and prevalence in the UK, called the Continuous Mortality Survey (CMI), accounts for these changes by calculating age-standardized mortality. Their analysis found that adjustments to these factors can eliminate additional non-COVID deaths. Therefore, compared with previous years, the number of people who died from non-COVID causes is indeed higher, but this is due to the aging of the population, not the increase in mortality.
Of course, in the last week’s data, 888 people died of COVID is still a tragic loss. However, we may still worry about other causes of mortality due to other causes.
The first of these lies in what demographers call “death transfer.” This effect stems from the fact that the average health status of people who die during the pandemic is worse than that of their peers. As a result, even if COVID has never occurred, some of them will unfortunately die in the next few months. This means that we may expect deaths from other causes to decline, because people who might have died have been taken away by COVID.
If we look at the cumulative number of excess deaths in 2021 compared to the 2015-19 average, we can see evidence of this effect. The death toll caused by the Christmas wave is more than 33,000 more than the number that usually occurs in January and February. But we then saw nearly 10,000 less The number of deaths between March and June before the delta wave. This means that if the COVID disappears tomorrow, we expect to see fewer deaths than before the pandemic. In fact, the numbers we see so far are roughly the same, According to CMI, Indicating that the current situation is not as optimistic as it seems, and that in fact, more people died from non-COVID reasons than we expected. Why is this happening?
The impact of the pandemic on society is huge, especially on health care services. The hospital is already crowded with COVID patients, which has a huge ripple effect on the treatment of all other diseases. In 2020, the number of patients who completed elective treatment in England decreased by 4 million compared with 2019.
At the same time, the number of new early cancer diagnoses has fallen by more than a quarter compared to pre-pandemic levels. As a result, fewer people are determined to need treatment, and people who are referred have to wait longer to get the care they need.
During the pandemic, people’s willingness or ability to seek medical help has also undergone major changes, which means that fewer people go to general practitioner clinics and hospitals due to non-COVID health issues. This has led to dramatic changes in where people died in the past 18 months. Except for the major COVID wave, the death toll in hospitals is much lower than in previous years, while the death toll at home has been higher.
People’s health-related behaviors have also changed dramatically. During the first lockdown, the smoking rate among young people and the rate of alcohol abuse among all age groups increased. Compared with 2019, the number of deaths due to alcohol in 2020 increased by 20%. As everything returns to normal, it remains to be seen whether these changes in people’s behavior will continue. But their impact on people’s health may continue for some time.
The impact of the pandemic on England’s health and healthcare will be profound and lasting. People are still dying from COVID. Although we may not see more deaths from other causes than we expected, after taking into account population growth, the scars left by this epidemic on mortality data will be It will become apparent in the next few decades.