Age- and sex-specific total mortality impacts of the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic in England and Wales: Application of a Bayesian model ensemble to mortality statistics

Published in medrXiv (pre-print), 2020

Recommended citation: Age- and sex-specific total mortality impacts of the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic in England and Wales: Application of a Bayesian model ensemble to mortality statistics Vasilis Kontis, James E Bennett, Robbie M Parks, Theo Rashid, Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, Perviz Asaria, Michel Guillot, Marta Blangiardo, Majid Ezzati medRxiv 2020.05.20.20107680; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.05.20.20107680

[Download paper here](https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.20.20107680v1) Background: The Covid-19 pandemic affects mortality directly through infection as well as through changes in the social, environmental and healthcare determinants of health. The impacts on mortality are likely to vary, in both magnitude and timing, by age and sex. Our aim was to estimate the total mortality impacts of the pandemic, by sex, age group and week. Methods: We developed an ensemble of 16 Bayesian models that probabilistically estimate the weekly number of deaths that would be expected had the Covid-19 pandemic not occurred. The models account for seasonality of death rates, medium-long-term trends in death rates, the impact of temperature on death rates, association of death rates in each week on those in preceding week(s), and the impact of bank holidays. We used data from January 2010 through mid-February 2020 (i.e., week starting 15th February 2020) to estimate the parameters of each model, which was then used to predict the number of deaths for subsequent weeks as estimates of death rates if the pandemic had not occurred. We subtracted these estimates from the actual reported number of deaths to measure the total mortality impact of the pandemic. Results: In the week that began on 21st March, the same week that a national lockdown was put in place, there was a >92% probability that there were more deaths in men and women aged ≥45 years than would occur in the absence of the pandemic; the probability was 100% from the subsequent week. Taken over the entire period from mid-February to 8th May 2020, there were an estimated ~ 49,200 (44,700-53,300) or 43% (37-48) more deaths than would be expected had the pandemic not taken place. 22,900 (19,300-26,100) of these deaths were in females (40% (32-48) higher than if there had not been a pandemic), and 26,300 (23,800- 28,700) in males (46% (40-52) higher). The largest number of excess deaths occurred among women aged >85 years (12,400; 9,300-15,300), followed by men aged >85 years (9,600; 7,800-11,300) and 75-84 years (9,000; 7,500-10,300). The cause of death assigned to the majority (37,295) of these excess deaths was Covid-19. There was nonetheless a >99.99% probability that there has been an increase in deaths assigned to other causes in those aged ≥45 years. However, by the 8th of May, the all-cause excess mortality had become virtually equal to deaths assigned to Covid-19, and non-Covid excess deaths had diminished to close to zero, or possibly become negative, in all age-sex groups. Interpretation: The death toll of Covid-19 pandemic, in middle and older ages, is substantially larger than the number of deaths reported as a result of confirmed infection, and was visible in vital statistics when the national lockdown was put in place. When all-cause mortality is considered, the mortality impact of the pandemic on men and women is more similar than when comparing deaths assigned to Covid-19 as underlying cause of death.