The toll of deaths and other consequences

The harms arising from the pandemic can be grouped under four headings:
  • direct health effects
  • indirect health effects
  • wider effects on society
  • economic impacts

Direct health effects

The large number of deaths

England had the highest excess all-cause mortality rate among 23 European countries in the first five months of 2020 compared with 2015-19. There were around 58,000 excess deaths (see Figure) [1]. About half the excess deaths occurred in care homes.

The way in which people died has often been very distressing

In many countries, including the UK, the number of excess deaths is roughly the same as the number of deaths reported [2]

Other sources: [3], [4], [5], [6]

Many health and care workers have died

There can be residual effects in those who survive ("long covid")

Indirect health effects

  • the delays of urgent medical investigations
  • treatment delays
  • interruption of health promotion activities

Wider effects on society

  • the disruption of funerals, weddings etc
  • suspension of sporting events etc

Economic impacts

  • the economic disruption


Acknowledgements

The figure is copied from the BMJ article [1].

References

[1]UKs record on pandemic deaths (Sep 2020) BMJ 2020;370:m3348 https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3348
[2]Tracking covid-19 excess deaths across countries (Jul 2020, updated Oct 2020) The Economist https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/07/15/tracking-covid-19-excess-deaths-across-countries
[3]Financial Times https://www.ft.com/content/a2901ce8-5eb7-4633-b89c-cbdf5b386938
[4]New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/21/world/coronavirus-missing-deaths.html
[5]Our World in Data https://ourworldindata.org/excess-mortality-covid
[6](all-cause mortality in 21 industrialized countries) (Oct 2020) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-1112-0


First published: 23 July 2020
Last updated: 16 Oct 2020