In particular, it is pretty clear to me that specifically in the U.S., the non-COVID excess mortality has been very high. I do not think that’s under-counted COVID deaths. I think it’s due to other causes. We’ve already seen that car accident deaths were up, even though total miles driven was down by a lot.
So yay for their statistics in grabbing the excess deaths, but boo for assuming all those excess deaths were COVID.
Now, results of COVID and COVID policies, sure, I’d go with that. But do you want to start digging into the stats of suicides, drug overdoses, “accidental” deaths, and more? How about deaths of neglect? I bet that is involved in a bunch of non-COVID elderly deaths.
First, we compute the differences between the output paths for 2020–2030 projected before and after the pandemic (the shaded area in Figure 1) and estimate its present value discounting at a 0% real interest rate (a reasonably conservative assumption in a context where real rates are negative for most developed countries). This yields a total loss of about half of global GDP.
Next, there is the question of the fiscal stimulus (equivalent to 15% of GDP, according to the IMF fiscal monitor) without which the output loss in 2020 would have been much steeper. How much of the economic impact of the fiscal unwinding is properly accounted for in the revised growth projections (Beck et al. 2021), particularly given that a big part of the stimulus (6% of the 15%) was below the line (loans, equity stakes, guarantees) with a cost that is contingent on the speed and composition of economic recovery in each country? There is no simple answer here. Moreover, we are ignoring potential bouts of financial stress or debt restructurings in heavily indebted countries (Persaud 2021), as well as the second wave of stimulus already in line for 2021 in many advanced economies. All things considered, adding the full 15% of GDP as an indicative measure of the cost of fiscal support does not look unreasonable.
Third, there is the value of the excess deaths due to Covid-19. There is, of course, no uncontroversial way to put a value on human life. For the sake of argument, we follow a recent estimation for the US by Cutler and Summers (2020) that uses the ‘statistical lives’ value to place it between $10 million and $7 million per life. If we take the considerably more conservative $5 million per life, acknowledging that the statistical value may vary across countries, the cost related to the global cumulative deaths registered so far amounts to 16.9% of global GDP.
Author(s): Eduardo Levy Yeyati, Federico Filippini
As covid-19 has spread around the world, people have become grimly familiar with the death tolls that their governments publish each day. Unfortunately, the total number of fatalities caused by the pandemic may be even higher, for several reasons. First, the official statistics in many countries exclude victims who did not test positive for coronavirus before dying—which can be a substantial majority in places with little capacity for testing. Second, hospitals and civil registries may not process death certificates for several days, or even weeks, which creates lags in the data. And third, the pandemic has made it harder for doctors to treat other conditions and discouraged people from going to hospital, which may have indirectly caused an increase in fatalities from diseases other than covid-19.
One way to account for these methodological problems is to use a simpler measure, known as “excess deaths”: take the number of people who die from any cause in a given region and period, and then compare it with a historical baseline from recent years. We have used statistical models to create our baselines, by predicting the number of deaths each region would normally have recorded in 2020.
At the same time that covid-19 was devastating New York, cities in western Europe were also suffering severe outbreaks. Britain, Spain, Italy and Belgium have some of the highest national excess-death rates in the world, after adjusting for the size of their populations. France and Portugal locked down comparatively early, given the number of positive tests at the time. However, a second wave of covid-19 in winter has caused excess mortality to rise again across the region. (Some countries also recorded a small spike of non-covid fatalities during a heat wave in August.)
MEN ARE around 1.7 times more likely than women to die from covid-19, according to a recent paper by researchers at Yale University, published in Science. Men older than 30 have a significantly greater mortality risk. That is striking, but perhaps should not come as a surprise. Human lifespans have climbed steadily in recent decades, but wide disparities remain between women and men (see chart). Globally women live nearly five years longer than men, up from three years in 1950. The reasons for that gap are both biological and environmental, and help to explain why more men are dying from covid-19.
Comparing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic between countries or across time is difficult because the reported numbers of cases and deaths can be strongly affected by testing capacity and reporting policy. Excess mortality, defined as the increase in all-cause mortality relative to the recent average, is widely considered as a more objective indicator of the COVID-19 death toll. However, there has been no central, frequently-updated repository of the all-cause mortality data across countries. To fill this gap, we have collected weekly, monthly, or quarterly all-cause mortality data from 77 countries, openly available as the regularly-updated World Mortality Dataset. We used this dataset to compute the excess mortality in each country during the COVID-19 pandemic. We found that in the worst-affected countries the annual mortality increased by over 50%, while in several other countries it decreased by over 5%, presumably due to lockdown measures decreasing the non-COVID mortality. Moreover, we found that while some countries have been reporting the COVID-19 deaths very accurately, many countries have been underreporting their COVID-19 deaths by an order of magnitude or more. Averaging across the entire dataset suggests that the world’s COVID-19 death toll may be at least 1.6 times higher than the reported number of confirmed deaths.
Description: Estimating global excess mortality, and comparing against official COVID death counts. As of date of publication, official COVID deaths globally were about 2 million (excluding: China and India, and many other large countries), while excess deaths for 2020 were about 2.8 million.
Authors: Paul Overberg, Jon Kamp and Daniel Michaels