Dr Jos IJpelaar, statistician for the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), part of ADR Northern Ireland, discusses a recent report on the relationship between Covid-19 deaths and pre-existing health conditions in Northern Ireland.
On 23 December 2020, NISRA published a report on Covid-19 related deaths from March to November 2020, focussing on the presence, number and type of pre-existing conditions. The definition of a pre‑existing condition used in this report is any mention on the death certificate of a condition that pre-dated or was independent of Covid-19.
What we found
There were 1,406 Covid-19 related deaths registered in Northern Ireland between 1 March and 30 November 2020; for 114 Covid-19 related deaths (8.1%), there were no pre-existing conditions.
More detailed analysis on deaths registered in the period of 1 March to 30 September 2020, showed that on average, a Covid-19 related death had 2.32 pre‑existing conditions. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was the most common pre-existing condition, appearing in 327 deaths or 36.3% of 902 Covid-19 related deaths in this period The next most common pre-existing conditions were hypertensive diseases (180 deaths) and diabetes (165 deaths).
The main pre-existing condition – the one most likely to cause death in the absence of Covid-19 – from March to September 2020 was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (297 deaths), followed by ischaemic heart diseases (81 deaths) and chronic lower respiratory diseases (67 deaths). The report and accompanying spreadsheets provide a further breakdown of these findings by age and sex.
Impact and next steps
The main findings of this report have been reported in the local media. The depth of commentary provided within the reports is enabling researchers to gain greater familiarity with a key data source that will be instrumental in shaping future research projects through ADR Northern Ireland.
NISRA has committed to publishing an update of this analysis on 31 March 2021, covering registrations of Covid-19 related deaths up to 28 February 2021. There will also be updates to earlier reports on Covid-19 related deaths (25 February) and excess mortality (4 March).
Future ADR Northern Ireland data linkage projects using data from the General Registry Office will facilitate more in-depth assessment of all-cause mortality/excess deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic with a specific focus on respiratory diseases and Covid-19 deaths, including an analysis of the impact on BAME and disability groups, and accounting for socio-demographic and environmental factors. The projects will enhance understanding of the impact of and support the response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Northern Ireland.
The report was originally published on the NISRA website.