How much did Covid-19 change our risk of death?

When I looked at excess deaths before, I didn’t think to actually notice what the normal rates of death in each age group look like, and how comparable or otherwise the age distribution of covid deaths (or excess deaths) was to the usual distribution of deaths.

Here’s the 2010-2019 average mortality rates by age group in Scotland, with the excess deaths from the first year of the pandemic stacked on top:

And here’s the proportional change in the death rate over that first pandemic year in each age group.

Excess deaths in the first year of the pandemic as a proportion of expected annual deaths

Now here is a second version, where for under 45s I’ve used “covid confirmed” deaths (from the PHS covid dashboard) instead of excess deaths, as they are rather different in those age groups:

Ditto, but with excess deaths replaced by covid deaths for under 45s.

Some things that stand out:

  • Above age 65, your proportional increase in probability of death over that year seems to have been bigger the older you were. I imagine exposure may be a factor in that – the likelihood of receiving social care and/or hospital care increases steeply with age, and these would obviously be sources of potential exposure.
  • The biggest proportional increase (in the second version, i.e. focusing on covid deaths) was in ages 45-64. Presumably because 65 is a typical retirement age, and many people under that age will have been working outside their homes, and thus more exposed.
  • Below age 45, exposure risk must have been at least as high as for the 45-64 year olds. But proportional increase in deaths due to covid was much lower in younger people.
  • On the other hand, the 15-44 age group really did not fare well overall, with the highest proportional increase in total deaths of all age groups. As I noted in my previous post, many of the excess deaths specifically in this age group occurred over summer 2020, so cannot have been covid deaths as we had barely any covid cases. Maybe a collateral harm of lockdowns? Have to wait for NRS vital events publication for 2020 to see causes of death by age.
  • On the other-other hand, lockdowns appear to have reduced deaths from non-covid causes in children under 14.

Mostly I just feel surprised to see how high the background risk of death is, at every stage of life. Forget pandemic viruses, and risky vaccines – just plain living is way more dangerous!

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