Excess and Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland: What does the data tell us?

Categories: Blogs, Research findings, ADR Northern Ireland, Health & wellbeing, Inequality & social inclusion

Written by Jos IJpelaar 5 August 2020

These reports have been led by NISRA researchers who are also part of ADR Northern Ireland (ADR NI), bringing key benefits around the timeliness of production. The depth of commentary provided within the reports are enabling researchers to gain greater familiarity with a key data source that will be vital to future linkage projects designed to better our understanding of the impact and to support the response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Northern Ireland.

The first bulletin contains analyses of all Covid-19 related deaths that occurred (based on the date of death) in Northern Ireland in the 3-month period between 1 March and 31 May 2020. This report includes age-standardised mortality rates (ASMRs) of Covid-19 related deaths. The second bulletin provided statistics of excess mortality in Northern Ireland over a 4-month period (March to June), and compared them to Covid‑19 related deaths.

Both bulletins provide analysis by age, sex and different geographical areas including Local Government Districts, area deprivation and urban/rural residence.

What we found

The first study estimated the ASMR for Northern Ireland to be 48.2 per 100,000 persons during March-May 2020. Males had a significantly higher rate of death linked to Covid-19: the ASMR was 60.4 deaths per 100,000 of the male population compared with 40.4 deaths per 100,000 females. Higher ASMRs were also found in Belfast Local Government District (81.1), the 20% most deprived areas (60.5) and in urban areas (59.0 deaths per 100,000 population).

The second study showed that, from March to June 2020, there were 885 excess deaths, 17.4% above expected levels (average deaths for the same period over the last five years). In the same period, there were 837 Covid-19 related deaths. For both males and females aged 55 to 64 (older working age), excess deaths as a proportion of expected levels, were higher than the equivalent proportions for those aged 65 to 74 (younger pensionable age). The number of deaths in hospitals was slightly lower than expected levels, despite 434 Covid-19 related deaths occurring in hospitals. In contrast, the majority of excess deaths (556 or 62.8%) occurred at home, while 44 Covid-19 related deaths occurred at home.

Impact and next steps

Both bulletins were accompanied by a press release, ADR NI researchers from NISRA provided press briefings, and there was widespread coverage in the local media. This has not only raised awareness of these studies, but also of ADR NI as a whole and NISRA’s role within it.

It is expected that the current pandemic will feature heavily in future ADR NI research, for both academic and government researchers. Potential Covid-19 related research include the direct impact on public health, indirect health effects of lock-down measures on loneliness and the provision of non‑Covid-19 health care. Understanding the key socio-economic consequences of the pandemic in relation to disruptions to education, labour markets and public life is integral to informing the Covid-19 recovery plan.

Learn more about statistics from NISRA on the monthly deaths statistics page.

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