From May to December 2022, Covid was not a cause of death, but tens of thousands more Brits died than normal. This raises many questions about why so many people died.
Experts aren’t sure why there were tens of thousands more deaths in Britain than they thought there would be.
From May to December of last year, there were 32,441 more deaths than expected in England and Wales.
Excess deaths are the number of people who died more than the average over the last five years. This number was calculated without taking into account 2020 because of how Covid messed up death numbers that year.
Statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that over 32,000 Brits who should have been living died during this time.
These shocking numbers made people wonder what is going on with the country’s people, how they are changing, and why so many more people are dying.
Since the Covid outbreak, the number of deaths that are above the average for the last five years has changed wildly from month to month.
The jumps in the number of deaths can be caused by a number of things, but it’s not clear what’s causing the jumps or the drops.
Also, early in 2022, the number of extra deaths was well below normal. One group of experts told the Mirror that a “mortality displacement” effect might explain why so many deaths happen in a short amount of time, as they are carried over from the months before.
Professor Emeritus of Demography at Oxford University, David Coleman, told the Mirror that no one knew for sure why so many people died last year.
He pointed out that after Covid, the UK’s population had changed because a lot of older people had died because of the virus.
He said, “Once those poor people are gone, the rest of the population should be healthier, and there should be a time when less people die than usual, but that hasn’t happened.”
But he pointed out two main things that could be causing the number of extra deaths to rise: Britain is getting older and the average body mass index is going up.
“The population is getting older, and Britons are the fattest people in Europe. This makes them more likely to get sick, especially with heart disease and diabetes. Independent of Covid, some people have predicted that death rates will continue to rise because the country is so unhealthy,” he said.
Some of the extra deaths were thought to be caused by ischaemic heart disease, which fits with what the professor said about a bigger population.
Also, dementia and Alzheimer’s will be the top causes of death for most of 2022. This supports the idea that the population is getting older and dying faster.
Alzheimer’s and dementia aren’t always the top cause of extra deaths. When that information is available, ONS figures show that it’s often pneumonia and flu in the winter or symptoms, signs, and conditions that aren’t well understood at other times of the year.
Professor Coleman told the Mirror, “If you look at the details and reasons on death certificates, it’s a bit unsatisfactory because symptoms, signs, and ill-defined is one of the biggest parts of these extra deaths, and that’s something that comes with getting older.”
This then brings up another problem, which is that a lot of people in Britain are dying, but it’s not always clear why.
So, a very old population may be causing another problem, but it doesn’t quite explain why more than 30,000 more people died than normal from May to December of last year.
For March and February of this year, the top cause of extra deaths was symptoms, signs, and not being sure what was wrong. Before that, in January, it was flu and pneumonia.
And as the year goes on, other things become very clear as the major cause of too many deaths.
Especially in the summer, heat comes back over and over again, and with climate change, this will only get worse.
On the hottest days of the year, there are always more deaths than usual because thousands of people die from the heat.
As was already said, the number of extra deaths is compared to the average number of deaths over the past five years, from 2016 to 2019 and 2021.
But this has been criticized because it doesn’t take into account changes in the size, age, and other factors of the population during that time.
In short, the population in 2016 is different from the population in 2023, as pointed out by Professor Kevin McConway, Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics at The Open University.
Using age-standardised mortality rates (ASMR) does account for these changes and, when used, helps explain why so many people are dying.
It tells how much a certain time period is above or below the average for the last five years.
The number of extra deaths in December 2022, 5,900, is 13.5% higher than the average for the last five years.
But the ASMR is only 5.8% higher than the average for the last five years. This means that maybe some of the tens of thousands of deaths should have been more predicted, but it still doesn’t explain why they happened.
When you look at all of 2022, the ASMR generally gives a lower percentage than the percentage of straight excess deaths, but not far enough to get rid of the deaths or explain them away completely.
Professor McConway did point out that ASMR has its own problems, though.
“To figure out the ASMRs, you need to know how many people are in each age group,” he said.
“ONS could not (yet) use estimates based on the 2021 Census results because they are not yet available for the relevant dates. Instead, they used projections based on population figures from 2018.
“At the moment, these don’t take into account big events like the Covid pandemic that would have changed the size and aging pattern of the population.”
Which means that there are still tens of thousands of dead British people for whom it is not clear how they died.
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