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Excess deaths in UK among highest levels in Europe for under-65s in 2020

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The UK ended 2020 with one of the highest levels of excess mortality for people aged under 65 among countries in Europe, new figures show.

The figures show how different parts of Europe experienced contrasting levels of mortality throughout 2020, with central and eastern European countries being worse hit in the second half of the year.

By the week ending December 18, deaths for this age group were 7.7 per cent higher than the equivalent average figure for the years 2015 to 2019.

The individual rate for England stood at 8.7 per cent, higher than the figures for Scotland (7.7 per cent), Wales (5.0 per cent) and Northern Ireland (4.1 per cent).

For deaths among all ages, Poland ended 2020 with the greatest cumulative excess mortality (11.6 per cent above the five-year average), followed by Spain (10.6 per cent) and Belgium (9.7 per cent).

England ranked seventh on this list (7.8 per cent) with the UK eighth (7.2 per cent).

This is a change from the middle of 2020, at which point England had the highest cumulative mortality rate for countries where data was available (7.3 per cent above average) followed by the UK as a whole (6.7 per cent) and Spain (5.9 per cent).

Cities of central and eastern Europe suffered particularly high excess mortality in the autumn and winter period, with Sofia (112.5 per cent) and Warsaw (103.8 per cent) having the highest weekly excess mortality rates.

But these were much lower than those cities affected during the spring of 2020, such as Madrid (452.0 per cent), Barcelona (266.0 per cent) and London (228.4 per cent).

The best way of comparing levels of mortality internationally is by looking at all-cause mortality rates – by local area, region and country – compared with the five-year average, the ONS said.

All-cause mortality avoids the problem of different countries recording Covid-19 deaths in different ways, and also takes into account the indirect impact of the pandemic, such as deaths from other causes that might be related to delayed access to healthcare.

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