During January–December 2020, the estimated 2020 age-adjusted death rate increased for the first time since 2017, with an increase of 15.9% compared with 2019, from 715.2 to 828.7 deaths per 100,000 population. COVID-19 was the underlying or a contributing cause of 377,883 deaths (91.5 deaths per 100,000). COVID-19 death rates were highest among males, older adults, and AI/AN and Hispanic persons. The highest numbers of overall deaths and COVID-19 deaths occurred during April and December. COVID-19 was the third leading underlying cause of death in 2020, replacing suicide as one of the top 10 leading causes of death (6).
The findings in this report are subject to at least four limitations. First, data are provisional, and numbers and rates might change as additional information is received. Second, timeliness of death certificate submission can vary by jurisdiction. As a result, the national distribution of deaths might be affected by the distribution of deaths from jurisdictions reporting later, which might differ from those in the United States overall. Third, certain categories of race (i.e., AI/AN and Asian) and Hispanic ethnicity reported on death certificates might have been misclassified (7), possibly resulting in underestimates of death rates for some groups. Finally, the cause of death for certain persons might have been misclassified. Limited availability of testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic might have resulted in an underestimation of COVID-19–associated deaths.
This report provides an overview of provisional U.S. mortality data for 2020. Provisional death estimates can give researchers and policymakers an early indication of shifts in mortality trends and provide actionable information sooner than the final mortality data that are released approximately 11 months after the end of the data year. These data can guide public health policies and interventions aimed at reducing numbers of deaths that are directly or indirectly associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and among persons most affected, including those who are older, male, or from disproportionately affected racial/ethnic minority groups.
Author(s): Farida B. Ahmad, Jodi A. Cisewski, Arialdi Miniño, Robert N. Anderson
Publication Date: 31 March 2021
Publication Site: CDC