Despite continuing deaths from COVID-19, in 2021 mortality from other causes has been about 9% lower than usual (in England, January to September 2021). In the midst of a pandemic, how could this have happened? Did the pandemic, and our lockdowns, unexpectedly reduce deaths from other causes? Or have deaths during the pandemic ‘displaced’ mortality that would otherwise occur at a later point in time?
This analysis explores the story behind this 9% figure – breaking down deaths by different conditions to try to understand why deaths from some causes have risen, while others have fallen. We do this by analysing excess deaths (deaths compared to the 5-year average) for different conditions, and propose a model to explain the different factors that have acted to both increase and decrease non-COVID mortality during the pandemic. This will help us to interpret and understand the effect of the pandemic on non-COVID mortality. And, in doing so, suggest what might happen to mortality from key conditions such as cancer in the coming years.