Where does COVID-19 rank? – Healthcare Economist

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A paper by Ahmad and Anderson in JAMA last spring examined trends in the causes of death in the US. Below are the charts in terms of both the number of deaths and the share of total deaths. The data come from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) National Vital Statistics System (NVSS).

The key item to note of course is the advent of COVID-19. More than 1 in 10 deaths in the U.S. in 2020 (10.3%) was due to COVID-19. To put this into perspective, COVID-19 caused about twice as many deaths as stroke (the #5 cause of death) and about 6.5 times the amount of death of season influenza and pneumonia combined. In 2021, one could expect fewer deaths due to COVID-19 due to the advent of vaccines, but this is somewhat counteracted by the fact that COVID-19 was spreading throughout the whole 2021 compared to largely starting in March in 2020.

Other trends to note are that we do see that the share of deaths due to heart disease and cancer is generally falling over time, in particular cancer. Also, despite worries about mental health issues during 2020, we do see a small drop in the number of suicides in 2020, although this impact could be in part due to the competing risk of death due to COVID-19.

It will be important to examine how these numbers evolve as we head into 2022.



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