14.9 Million Excess Deaths Associated With the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020 and 2021
New estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that the full death toll associated directly or indirectly with the COVID-19 pandemic between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021 was approximately 14.9 million.
Countries around the world have reported 5.42 million deaths as a result of the virus between 2020 and 2021, a figure that increases to 6.24 million when deaths in 2022 are included.
As of April 24 this year, there were 1,956,945 reported deaths across the whole of Europe due to COVID-19 since the first recorded European death in France on February 15, 2020.
The release of the new figures confirm the WHO’s long-held suspicion that the true number of global deaths, including those caused by the knock-on effects of the pandemic, is far greater the numbers previously reported.
Excess mortality is calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic based on data from earlier years.
Excess mortality includes deaths associated with COVID-19 directly (due to the disease) or indirectly (due to the pandemic’s impact on health systems and society). Deaths linked indirectly to COVID-19 are attributable to other health conditions for which people were unable to access prevention and treatment because health systems were overburdened by the pandemic. The estimated number of excess deaths can be influenced also by deaths averted during the pandemic due to lower risks of certain events, like motor-vehicle accidents or occupational injuries.
84% of the excess deaths are concentrated in South-East Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Some 68% of excess deaths are concentrated in just 10 countries globally. Middle-income countries account for 81% of the 14.9 million excess deaths (53% in lower-middle-income countries and 28% in upper-middle-income countries) over the 24-month period, with high-income and low-income countries each accounting for 15% and 4%, respectively.
The estimates for a 24-month period (2020 and 2021) include a breakdown of excess mortality by age and sex. They confirm that the global death toll was higher for men than for women (57% male, 43% female) and higher among older adults. The absolute count of the excess deaths is affected by the population size. The number of excess deaths per 100,000 gives a more objective picture of the pandemic than reported COVID-19 mortality data.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said, “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems. WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”
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