Providing timely evidence of Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland

On 25 February 2021, NISRA published a report on Covid-19 related age standardised-mortality rates (ASMRs). This included new information broken down by geographical areas and area deprivation for different time periods, March - August 2020 and September 2020 - January 2021, to broadly represent waves one and two of the pandemic. The report also provided fresh insights into working age (20-69 years) Covid deaths where information on the occupation of the deceased was available.

On 4 March 2021, NISRA published a report on excess mortality based on deaths occurring during the first 10 months (March to December 2020) of the pandemic in Northern Ireland. Excess deaths were broken down by a range of factors including age, sex and different geographical areas and, for the first time, by main cause of death.

What we found

  • There were 2,546 deaths involving Covid-19 between 1 March 2020 and 31 January 2021, accounting for 15.8% of all deaths.
  • Covid-19 related ASMRs were highest in the 20% most deprived areas at 188.3 deaths per 100,000 population, and lowest in the 20% least deprived areas at 137.5 deaths per 100,000
  • Covid-19 related deaths in persons of working age (aged 20-69) totalled 355 (13.9% of all Covid-19 deaths), of which 74 (20.8%) and 53 (14.9%) were in the skilled trades or elementary occupations groups respectively.
  • There were 1,958 excess deaths from 1 March to 31 December 2020, 15.4% above expected levels (average deaths for the same period over the last five years). In the same period, there were 1,903 Covid‑19 related deaths.
  • There were more non Covid-19 deaths occurring at home: combined with 119 Covid-19 related deaths at home, this resulted in the majority of excess deaths (1,395 or 71.3%) occurring at home.

Impact and next steps

The main findings of both reports 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.

Approval has been received to undertake a data linkage project using the Northern Ireland Mortality Study (NIMS). This research will provide a more in-depth analysis of Covid-19 and excess mortality during the pandemic with a specific focus on socio-demographic associations (including BAME groups, disability groups and religion) as well as neighbourhood factors including area of residence and population density.

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