Covid-19 pandemic may have accelerated other causes of death

ONS study finds unusual increase in Alzheimer's and dementia mortality rate in early days of coronavirus outbreak

The National Covid Memorial Wall in London. AP
Powered by automated translation

Deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease may have been indirectly accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic, data analysis has shown.

In illnesses such as liver disease and diabetes, a similar proportion of deaths to the pre-pandemic average was recorded, a report said.

But data published on Tuesday by the UK’s Office for National Statistics showed there were more Alzheimer's and dementia deaths than expected during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Though further investigation is required to understand this, it offers cautious evidence that the indirect effects of the coronavirus pandemic may have accelerated mortality in certain causes of death,” the ONS said of its findings.

“There is further evidence of mortality displacement in the analysis of excess deaths by underlying cause when comparing the period March to December 2020 with January to December 2021.

“Though most causes of death saw similar proportions of excess deaths across these two periods, deaths due to dementia and Alzheimer's disease displayed a notably different trend.”

The ONS found an excess of 4,990 deaths due to those conditions, representing an increase of 9.7 per cent.

The report covers deaths in England and Wales between March 2020 and December 2021.

It found the leading causes of death with the highest numbers of excess deaths were symptoms and ill-defined conditions often linked to old age and frailty, (7,085 excess deaths), cirrhosis and other diseases of the liver (3,061 excess deaths), and diabetes (2,696 excess deaths).

The months with the highest number of excess deaths were April 2020 (43,796 excess deaths) and January 2021 (16,548 excess deaths).

The age group with the highest number of excess deaths that were not due to Covid-19 was 70 to 74.

As the UK tries to move away from the lockdowns of the past two years, a surge in new Covid-19 cases is being recorded, particularly in Scotland.

The number of coronavirus patients in Scotland's hospitals has reached a record high for a second consecutive day, at 2,221.

The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 in two regions of England has climbed to the highest level for more than a year, in the latest evidence of a resurgence of the virus.

South-east England has now joined the south-west in recording patient levels last seen in February 2021, surpassing the peaks reached in the previous surge of infections at the start of 2022.

The Welsh government is considering extending certain coronavirus restrictions to deal with rising infection numbers.

The UK has registered 20,319,434 infections and 163,679 deaths since the first Covid-19 case was identified in China in 2019.

Updated: June 20, 2023, 11:59 AM