Excess deaths sustain pandemic highs as Covid peak passes, figures show

Largest number of excess deaths excluding those involving Covid recorded in December 2022

A Covid-19 memorial wall in London. Getty
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Excess deaths in England and Wales continue to trend high, even with Covid-related illnesses and conditions discounted, new figures from the UK's Office of National Statistics show.

With coronavirus discounted, excess deaths in nine months of 2022 were above the five-year average, ONS research showed.

Measuring excess deaths — the number of fatalities above the five-year average of overall deaths — in a pandemic year helps provide insight into mortality potentially related to Covid.

The new ONS figures appear to indicate that Covid is declining as a cause of excess deaths in England and Wales.

The first Covid lockdowns in the UK began in March 2020. The total number of excess deaths due to all causes between March 2020 and December 2022, compared with the five-year average, was 167,356, ONS figures show.

When the underlying cause of death was not Covid, deaths were 17,288 above the five-year average.

The months with the most excess deaths were April 2020 — 43,796 — and January 2021 — 16,546. Those months also had the most deaths due to Covid.

The 75-79 age group recorded the most excess deaths not due to Covid.

Between March 2020 and December 2022, the leading causes of excess death were ill-defined conditions associated with old age and frailty (12,170); cirrhosis and other diseases of the liver (4,846); and cardiac arrhythmias (4,375).

Early in the pandemic, many deaths that had been expected to occur were likely displaced by Covid, with deaths involving causes other than Covid appearing to be below average in almost every month.

December 2022 saw the largest number of excess deaths, excluding those involving Covid, since April 2020.

The figures are not yet available for 2023.

Updated: March 09, 2023, 4:16 PM