Excess mortality in England

Link: https://app.powerbi.com/view?r=eyJrIjoiYmUwNmFhMjYtNGZhYS00NDk2LWFlMTAtOTg0OGNhNmFiNGM0IiwidCI6ImVlNGUxNDk5LTRhMzUtNGIyZS1hZDQ3LTVmM2NmOWRlODY2NiIsImMiOjh9

Data download:



The numbers of expected deaths are estimated using statistical models and based on previous 5 years’ (2015 to 2019) mortality rates. Weekly monitoring of excess mortality from all causes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic provides an objective and comparable measure of the scale of the pandemic [reference 1]. Measuring excess mortality from all causes, instead of focusing solely on mortality from COVID-19, overcomes the issues of variation in testing and differential coding of cause of death between individuals and over time [reference 1].

In the weekly reports, estimates of excess deaths are presented by week of registration at national and subnational level, for subgroups of the population (age groups, sex, deprivation groups, ethnic groups) and by cause of death and place of death.

Author(s): Office for Health Improvement and Disparities

Publication Date: accessed 10 Aug 2022

Publication Site: Public PowerBI dashboard

CMI mortality monitor – week 28 of 2022

Link: https://www.actuaries.org.uk/system/files/field/document/Mortality%20summary%20pandemic%20monitor%20Week%2028%202022%20v01%202022-07-26.pdf



Data sources
The provisional weekly deaths are available from:
• ONS (England & Wales)
• NRS (Scotland)
• NISRA (Northern Ireland)

Author(s): Continuous Mortality Investigation

Publication Date: July 2022

Publication Site: Actuaries UK

Pensions watchdog warns about climate risk in rebuke of HSBC banker who downplayed danger

Link: https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uk-pensions-regulator-says-pension-schemes-should-not-ignore-climate-change-2022-05-23/


UK pension schemes should not ignore climate change, a senior executive at The Pensions Regulator said on Monday, the first watchdog to weigh in after a top HSBC banker was suspended after playing down the financial risks of climate change.

Regulators across the world have been putting pressure on the financial services industry to take climate change into account when calculating risks to their business models.

Stuart Kirk, a senior HSBC banker in charge of sustainable investments, had said at an industry event last week that central bank policymakers and other global authorities were exaggerating the financial risks of climate change. read more

The bank has since suspended him pending an internal investigation, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.

Publication Date: 23 May 2022

Publication Site: Reuters

The state pension – a creaking centenarian

Link: https://cpd180322.pensions-expert.com/



Separate SPAs for men and women were introduced in 1940 — age 65 for men and 60 for women, with a decision to equalise the SPA for men and women trailed in the 1993 white paper ‘Equality in state pension age’. Now that the same age applies for both men and women, at 66, there is still huge controversy over the notice period and quality of information given to women over the age of 50 on the exact timetables for this change. 

Demography has increasingly put the whole system under strain. Andrew Tully, technical director at Canada Life, warns: “By 2045, the number of people of pensionable age will grow to 15.2mn, an increase of 28 per cent on the level in 2020. The ‘oldest old’ cohort is also increasing, with the number of people aged 85 and over projected to almost double to 3.1mn by 2045. 

“At the same time, the working age population will increase by much less — around 4.5 per cent up by the mid-2030s, but then remaining around that level by 2045. Meanwhile, we are seeing a decrease in the number of children, with those aged 0 to 15 projected to fall by nearly 9 per cent by mid-2030.”

Author(s): Stephanie Hawthorne

Publication Date: 18 March 2022

Publication Site: Pensions Expert

A Four-Day Workweek Will Benefit Everyone, But Especially Women

Link: https://jacobin.com/2022/03/four-day-workweek-trial-gender-pension-gap


A four-day week would make it easier to balance life and work responsibilities. This would decrease the pressure on women to drop out of full-time employment and make it easier for others to rejoin full-time employment if they wish. It would also decrease underemployment, lessen the costs of paid childcare, and help level the playing field for unpaid care work by keeping men at home longer.

A recent policy paper published by the Women’s Budget Group comments in regard to a four-day week: “As the marginal worker is usually female, this effect could reduce gender gaps in both employment and income.” As the definition of full-time employment is decreased, more women will surpass the £10,000 a year threshold for autoenrollment and also have higher sustained pension contributions throughout their working life.

Belmont Packaging in Wigan, a company that practices a four-day week, asked its employees how they spend their three-day weekend. One employee said, “It’s like a bank holiday every week. Not exactly like one, because the wife has me doing chores every Friday.” During the early months of the pandemic, when many workers were kept at home, research showed that men took on a greater share of housework and women’s disproportionate burden decreased.

Author(s): James Derry

Publication Date: 25 March 2022

Publication Site: Jacobin

Increase in UK state pension age to 68 could come eight years early



Millions of people born in the 1970s may have to wait longer to collect their UK state pensions if a government review, which was announced this week, recommends bringing forward plans for a retirement age of 68.

The state pension age rose to 66 last year, with two further rises planned, meaning that by 2046 those born on or after April 1977 would need to wait until 68 before they can draw the benefit.

However, the review will look at bringing forward that change by eight years, so that the increase is phased in between 2037 and 2039.

Author(s): Hilary Osborne

Publication Date: 15 Dec 2021

Publication Site: The Guardian

Thomas Bond Sprague (1830-1920)




Dr Sprague was the main person behind a mortality study covering the experience of twenty U. K. life offices. This study resulted in the Institute of Actuaries Life Tables (the so-called Twenty Offices Table) which was published in 1869 [2]. From this study, he produced, in 1879, the first Select Tables of Mortality [3] which were the first two-dimensional mortality tables ever published (the two dimensions being ‘insured duration’ i.e. the ‘select period’ and ‘age attained’). The ‘select period’ was five years.

Dr Sprague pioneered the important 1870 Life Insurance Companies Act [4] which was introduced following the notorious insolvencies of both the Albert and the European life assurance companies. The 1870 Act required:-

… an investigation into the financial condition of a life insurance company to be made regularly by an actuary,

required a separate “long-term fund” and required the:-

… preparation of a revenue account and balance sheet every year in prescribed form to be filed with the Board of Trade,

the latter being a public document. Dr Sprague was one of the foremost advocates of the principle of ‘Freedom with Publicity’ (i.e. documents available to the public) and was opposed to there being any Government regulation prescribing the manner of valuation of policy liabilities. He wrote the major 19th century work on the preparation of life office accounts in conformity with the 1870 Act [5].

Author(s): David O Forfar

Publication Date: accessed 9 Feb 2022

Publication Site: MacTutor History of Math Archives

Battle lines drawn over the future of UK’s biggest pension fund




The UK’s biggest private pension scheme, the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), was no different: the custodian of the retirement savings of 470,000 university and college workers lost billions of pounds.

At its latest valuation, actuaries came up with an alarming conclusion: the assets of USS were only worth £67bn, leaving a huge deficit of £18bn compared to the liabilities it has promised to pay out in the future.

Yet the recovery was almost as extraordinary as the decline. Central banks pumped money into the economy, and tech companies in the US recorded astonishing gains. That helped USS assets back to more than £90bn at the end of January.

That recovery – and the controversial question of how the fund accounts for it – has put USS at the centre of a row that could result in university staff occupying picket lines across the country. The scheme will also be at the centre of a legal battle this month, with academics asking a court for permission to sue directors for not performing their duties.


 In a paper published in September, David Miles, professor of economics at Imperial College London and a former Bank of England monetary policymaker, and James Sefton, also an Imperial economics professor, argued that the risk of USS having insufficient funds to pay promised pensions was between 20% and 40%.

Simon Pilcher, chief executive of USS Investment Management, is in charge of choosing the actual investments. “Sadly, one can’t project the past into the future,” he said.

“Today, we think it is reasonable to expect lower returns going forward than we’ve experienced in the past, because it’s those higher returns that have driven us to these high prices.”

Author(s): Jasper Jolly

Publication Date: 5 Feb 2022

Publication Site: The Guardian

We’re pricing the poor out of food in the UK – that’s why I’m launching my own price index



A collection of 700 pre-specified goods that includes a leg of lamb, bedroom furniture, a television and champagne seems a blunt and darkly comical tool for recording the impact of inflated grocery prices in a country where two and a half million citizens were forced by an array of desperate circumstances to use food banks in the last year.

The Smart Price, Basics and Value range products offered as lower-cost alternatives are stealthily being extinguished from the shelves, leaving shoppers with no choice but to “level up” to the supermarkets’ own branded goods – usually in smaller quantities at larger prices.

I have been monitoring this for the last decade, through writing recipes on my online blog and documenting the prices of ingredients in forensic detail. In 2012, 10 stock cubes from Sainsbury’s Basics range were 10p. In 2022, those same stock cubes are 39p, but only available in chicken or beef. The cheapest vegetable stock cubes are, inexplicably, £1 for 10. Last year the Smart Price pasta in my local Asda was 29p for 500g. Today, it is unavailable, so the cheapest bag is 70p; a 141% price rise for the same product in more colourful packaging. A few years ago, there were more than 400 products in the Smart Price range; today there are 87, and counting down.


I have been writing about these things for 10 years now. I have given evidence to multiple parliamentary inquiries, led numerous petitions, been consulted on the School Food Plan and the National Food Strategy, spoken twice at the Conservative party conference, and still the realities of the worst of our collective experiences are dismissed by haughty money men as not matching their theoretical lamb-and-champagne metrics.

So, along with a team of economists, charitable partners, retail price analysts, people working to combat poverty in the UK, ex-staff from the Office for National Statistics and others who have volunteered their time and expertise, I am compiling a new price index – one that will document the disappearance of the budget lines and the insidiously creeping prices of the most basic versions of essential items at the supermarket.

Author(s): Jack Monroe

Publication Date: 22 Jan 2022

Publication Site: The Guardian

The catastrophe of the Covid models




Having taken all the modelling into account, SAGE produced a table that showed in stark terms what the future held if the government stuck to ‘Plan B’. With the usual risible caveat that ‘these are not forecasts or predictions’, they showed a peak in hospitalisations of between 3,000 and 10,000 per day and a peak in deaths of between 600 and 6,000 a day. In previous waves, without any vaccines, deaths had never exceeded 1,250 a day.

The government was effectively given an ultimatum. SAGE offered Johnson a choice between the disaster that would surely unfold and a ‘Step 1’ or ‘Step 2’ lockdown, both of which had been helpfully modelled to give him a steer. ‘Step 1’ was a full lockdown as implemented last January. ‘Step 2’ allowed limited contact with other households but only outdoors.

In the event, as we all know, Boris Johnson ignored the warnings and declined to implement any new restrictions on liberty. A few days later, Robert West, a nicotine-addiction specialist who is on SAGE for some reason, tweeted: ‘It is now a near certainty that the UK will be seeing a hospitalisation rate that massively exceeds the capacity of the NHS. Many thousands of people have been condemned to death by the Conservative government.’

It did not quite turn out that way. Covid-related hospitalisations in England peaked at 2,370 on 29 December and it looks like the number of deaths will peak well below 300. This is not just less than was projected under ‘Plan B’, it is less than was projected under a ‘Step 2’ lockdown. The modelling for ‘Step 2’ showed a peak of at least 3,000 hospitalisations and 500 deaths a day. SAGE had given itself an enormous margin of error. There is an order of magnitude between 600 deaths a day and 6,000 deaths a day and yet it still managed to miss the mark.

Author(s): Christopher Snowdon

Publication Date: 22 Jan 2022

Publication Site: Spiked Online

Life expectancy across the UK




The ONS (‘Office of National Statistics) produces annual updates on period life expectancy in the UK – the so-called National Life Tables. The latest tables are based on the 2018 to 2020 period, and therefore are the first to pick up the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the significantly increased death rates seen in 2020, this fall in life expectancy is not unexpected. However, it is important to note that the headline figures hide a wide variety of underlying impacts at a more granular level.

Author(s): Conor O’Reilly

Publication Date: 27 Sept 2021

Publication Site: Club Vita

Introducing the UK Covid-19 Crowd Forecasting Challenge

Link: https://www.crowdforecastr.org/2021/05/11/uk-challenge/

Twitter thread of results: https://twitter.com/nikosbosse/status/1449043922794188807




Let’s start with the data. The UK Forecasting Challenge spanned a long period of exponential growth as well as a sudden drop in cases at the end of July 3

Especially this peak was hard to predict and no forecaster really saw it coming. Red: aggregated forecast from different weeks, grey: individual participants. The second picture shows the range for which participants were 50% and 95% confident they would cover the true value


So what have we learned? – Human forecasts can be valuable to inform public health policy and can sometimes even beat computer models – Ensembles almost always perform better than individuals – Non-experts can be just as good as experts – recruiting participants is hard

Author(s): Nikos Bosse

Publication Date: Accessed 17 Oct 2021, twitter thread 15 Oct 21

Publication Site: Crowdforecastr