Weekly death statistics


Data extracted in June 2020.

Planned article update: July 2020.

Highlights


Preliminary data from 21 European countries show that there were around 140 000 more deaths during the weeks 10-17 (in March and April) in 2020 than the average number of deaths during the same period in 2016 to 2019.

In the weeks 10 to 17 (in March and April) in 2020, there were 40 % more deaths for men aged 70+ and 30 % more for women aged 70+ in Europe (data for 20 countries) compared with the same period in average in 2016 to 2019.

Weekly deaths w9-w17 2020 update2.gif


This article provides information regarding the evolution of the number of deaths by week in the countries of the European Union (whenever available), as well as EFTA. This is particularly useful for assessing the direct and indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the European population (see Data sources section on country coverage). The number of deaths rose rapidly in some Member States at the beginning of March 2020. In some parts of Europe, the difference compared with previous years was exceptionally high. On the other hand, some areas were less severely affected. In total, among the countries for which data are available, there were about 140 000 more deaths during weeks 10 to 17 (March - April) in 2020 than the average number of deaths during the same period over the four years 2016 to 2019. The peak of additional deaths compared with the weekly average in 2016-2019 was recorded in week 14 (end March – beginning April) 2020. Countries and regions were hit differently, like age groups, those aged 70 and over being particularly affected by deaths due to COVID-19.



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Dramatic rise in deaths in early spring

The comparison of the number of deaths in 2020 with mortality data from previous years (average over 2016 to 2019) shows, at aggregate level, the exceptionality of the first months of 2020 across the 21 European countries for which data are available. While important disparities existed between countries and regions, overall the first weeks of the year have lower values than those observed in the previous years. However, while in other years mortality started decreasing around this time of the year, in 2020 the number of deaths starts to rise abruptly at the beginning of March, corresponding to week 10 in Figure 1. By week 11 (9-15 March 2020), the values of 2020 surpass those recorded on average in the previous years. This gap is at its height in week 14 (30 March to 5 April).

Figure 1: Weekly deaths in 21 European countries, 2020 and average 2016-2019 (deaths)
Source: Eurostat (demo_r_mwk_ts)

In fact, each year displays its specific mortality pattern, which is also different from country to country and region to region. Aggregated 2018 data show, for example, the toll taken by the flu epidemics in late February and early March of that year. At the same time, previous years showed a striking similarity in the decreasing trend of weekly deaths starting with March, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Deaths in 21 European countries in weeks 9-17, 2016-2020 (deaths)
Source: Eurostat (demo_r_mwk_ts)

Number of deaths higher than in previous years

The cumulated values in the 21 European countries included in the analysis offer another way of comparing 2020 with the previous years. The cumulated deaths recorded after week 10 are, by week 13, higher than those recorded in any of the previous four years, as presented in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Cumulated deaths after week 10 in 21 European countries, 2016-2019 (deaths)
Source: Eurostat (demo_r_mwk_ts)

When compared with the average of the past four years, by week 17 the difference is almost 140 000 deaths.

Figure 4: Differences among weekly deaths in 2020 and 2016-2019 average, weekly and cumulated after week 10 (deaths)
Source: Eurostat (demo_r_mwk_ts)

Wide disparities between countries

The 21 European countries analysed were not affected in the same manner by the rise in the number of deaths. Some countries and regions experienced a steep increase and decrease in the number of deaths, while for others this process was less intensive. There were also disparities regarding the timing of the increase in the number of deaths.

The number of deaths rose sharply in Italy, Spain and France, reaching a peak around the beginning of April 2020: in week 13 (Italy) and week 14 (France and Spain) from where it began to drop abruptly. In some countries, such as Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, as well as Switzerland, and for the European aggregate, the rise and fall in mortality can be also observed as a bell shape with peaks on the number of deaths in weeks 14-15. These countries also show significant differences between the number of deaths observed this year compared with previous years. In the remaining countries, Austria, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Slovakia, Finland, as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, the pattern is less regular and the differences with the previous years are less pronounced. In some countries, such as Bulgaria or Slovakia, the contribution to the European rise is negative (fewer deaths than in the previous years over the weeks covered).


In the graph below you may select the country you would like to analyze.

Tool 1: Number of deaths per week
Source: Eurostat


Regarding the difference in the number of deaths between 2020 and the average number of deaths in previous years, there are certain countries which show more marked differences than others. To a large extent, the impact of these countries in the total additional number of deaths observed depends on the size of the country’s population. Figure 5 shows how several countries contributed to the difference in the number of deaths compared with the same week in previous years. While in week 11 this difference is mainly explained by deaths occurring in Italy, over weeks 12-13, 9 in 10 of these deaths occurred either in Spain, Italy or France. With Belgium, Germany as well as other countries gradually recording more deaths, by week 17 (when the 2020 values came much closer to the 2016-2019 average), 2 in 3 of the deaths of this difference are reported by Spain, Italy or France. In Figure 5, the legend shows countries by order of their contribution to the increase in mortality in week 14 of 2020.

Figure 5: Differences among weekly deaths in 21 European countries in 2020 and 2016-2019 average, by week and by country (deaths)
Source: Eurostat (demo_r_mwk_ts)

Most hit regions

Moreover, considerable differences could be noticed not only across countries but also between the regions of a country. In Map 1, the deaths in 2020 over weeks 10 to 17 are expressed in comparison with the same weeks in 2016-2019. Regional data (available at up to NUTS 3 level depending on the countries) show how in some areas in Europe, the increases in the number of deaths were especially significant: such as the north of Italy, the central zone of Spain including Madrid, the east of France and the region of Paris, several of the Belgian regions.

Map 1: Deaths in weeks 10 to 17, 2020 compared to 2016-2019 average
Source: Eurostat (demo_r_mweek3)

Different timings in mortality increase

In order to introduce the time perspective, the increase in the number of deaths in terms of differences compared with the previous years is presented in the GIF below, for weeks 10 to 17 of 2020. This shows, week by week, which NUTS 3 regions have suffered first from the increase in mortality.

In the last week of February (week 9), the NUTS 3 region Lodi, in Italy, had more than twice the number of deaths than in the same week of the previous four years. Week 10 saw the Italian regions Bergamo and Cremona joining Lodi in recording extremely high deaths. Week 11 shows the group of heavily affected Italian northern regions growing, to include Piacenza, Parma, Brescia. The Italian regions mentioned remain affected by a high number of deaths in week 12, while Spanish Soria, Segovia, Madrid, as well as Haut-Rhin in France, have more than three times the deaths than in the same week in 2016-2019. In weeks 13-14, the worst hit areas also include the Spanish regions Guadalajara, Ciudad Real and Albacete.

Week 15 brings a decrease in the overall death values in the affected regions of Italy and Spain. In France, Seine-Saint-Denis, Hauts-de-Seine and Val-d'Oise, the deaths in this week are more than three times higher than the past values. Weeks 16-17 (second half of April), while marking the overall decrease of deaths at NUTS3 level, sees several regions in Belgium, and also Switzerland, with more than twice the deaths than recorded in the past years.


Weekly deaths w9-w17 2020 update2.gif

Deaths of men increased more rapidly

The analysis by sex of weekly deaths is made on the data from 20 countries (the previous group excluding Germany). Increases in mortality after week 10 of 2020 affect men and women differently, as shown in Figure 6. From very close values in week 10, deaths of men rise faster than those of women every week until week 13. Week 14 sees the number of men’s deaths stable at the value from the previous week, but marks the peak of women’s mortality over the period. Up to week 17, there are then more deaths of women than of men.

Figure 6: Weekly deaths in 20 European countries, by sex and week, 2020
Source: Eurostat (demo_r_mwk_ts)

The curves for deaths by sex are very similar, as if there was a week's difference in the timing of death increases. As a result, the men:women ratio of weekly deaths displays an atypical pattern, with a peak in week 12 already. The value of 1.06 (repeated in week 13) is far above the maximum value observed for the aggregate of 20 countries in the same period of the years 2016 to 2019 (which stood at 1).

Figure 7: Men:Women ratio for weekly deaths in 20 European countries, 2016-2020.png
Source: Eurostat (demo_r_mwk_ts)

Cumulated deaths by sex over weeks 10 to 17 show that already in week 16 values are equal with 248 000 deaths for each sex, in the 20 countries covered by the analysis. In week 17 women have slightly more cumulated deaths.

Figure 8: Cumulated deaths after week 10 in 20 European countries, by sex and week, 2020
Source: Eurostat (demo_r_mwk_ts)

Increase in mortality for people aged 70 years and over

The analysis by 5-year age groups further highlights the differences in deaths among the population over the weeks 10 to 17 in the 20 countries for which data are available (excluding Germany). For both men and women, the age group above 90 is the hardest hit, with more than 140 deaths for 100 deaths over the same weeks in 2016-2019. Those younger than 50 recorded lower deaths in 2020 than previously. For men, the group 70-79 stands out, with deaths comparable to those of the age group 80-89, and thus breaking the almost linear relationship observed in Figure 9 between deaths specific to 2020 and age group until the group 65-69.

Figure 9: Deaths of men in weeks 10-17 of 2020, by age group (average 2016-2019=100 for the age group)
Source: Eurostat (demo_r_mwk_ts)


Figure 10: Deaths of women in weeks 10-17 of 2020, by age group (average 2016-2019=100 for the age group)
Source: Eurostat (demo_r_mwk_ts)


Also for women, the age group 70-89 displays comparable increases at approximately 130 deaths in 2020 for 100 deaths in the average of the past years for the same age. In addition, the age cluster 55-69 has a first increase in relationship with 2016-2019 followed by stability up to the group 65-69, opposite to men.

All in all, there is an important increase in mortality from 70 years old and over for both sexes in weeks 10 to 17 of 2020 compared with the average number of deaths over the same weeks in 2016-2019. Actually, the age group 70 years and over accounts for more than 90 % of the additional deaths over weeks 10 to 17 in 2020.


Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

In April 2020, Eurostat launched a new weekly European data collection on weekly death counts. All EU and EFTAcountries, as well as the United Kingdom and other candidate or neighbour countries were invited to provide data. Data recently published by Eurostat show the number of deaths in different European countries by week, age, sex and NUTS 3 regions. Not all breakdowns are available. Data is continuously updated with more recent weeks of mortality statistics. Data were extracted from Eurostat’s online database on Friday, 19 June. Online data is preliminary and is continuously updated with more recent weeks of mortality statistics. Link to metadata online

How the aggregate was constructed

This data collection may be used to get an indirect measure of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently 21 countries submit mortality data week by week and provided data for all weeks of the years 2016-2019 as a basis for comparison: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Spain, France, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria, Portugal, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland. These countries count, over the period of analysis (weeks 10 to 17), for more than 90 % of the deaths due to COVID as registered by the European Centre for Diseases Control for EU and EFTA countries (excluding Switzerland not covered by the ECDC). They represent 78 % of the population and 77 % of the deaths in the EU and EFTA in 2018. A data aggregation for all these countries was made for the present article in order to facilitate analysis. It is not included in the datasets on the online database of Eurostat. Countries that provided data for this data collection but are not included in this aggregate due to missing or incomplete data are: Ireland, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the United Kingdom. Data received from candidate and neighbour countries are also not presented in this article. All data available are, however, presented in the Eurostat’s online database.

Context

Besides its major impact on people’s lives and populations’ economies and health care systems, the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered tremendous interest in related statistics. Whilst the international comparability of data associated with Covid-19 may still be arguable due to possible different rules of disease/causes of death classification and coverage issues, high-frequency data on overall mortality offer a viable alternative for internationally comparable monitoring and analyses of direct and indirect effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hence, in April 2020, in cooperation with the National Statistical Institutes of the European Statistical System, Eurostat set up a new special European data collection on weekly death counts, in order to support the policy and research efforts related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Data on weekly deaths up to the latest available week are transmitted and frequently updated by the National Statistical Institutes to Eurostat on a voluntary basis. These data are cross-classified by sex, 5-year age-group and NUTS 3 region. Back series up to 2000 are transmitted for temporal comparisons. When such detailed cross-classification or long back series are not possible, less granular data or shorter time series may be provided to Eurostat by participating countries. Taking in due consideration the urgent need for statistical information for mortality monitoring, this data collection has been designed with timeliness as primary target.

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