• Richard Marshall

Are the excess deaths in 2020 just a ‘shortfall’ from 2019?

Bulletin 84 | Richard Marshall


It has been suggested that the severity of COVID-19 in the UK is partly due to the low mortality in 2019, when we experienced a “shortfall” in excess winter deaths.


In this bulletin, we consider:

  • The extent to which excess deaths in 2020 depends on the period used as a benchmark.

  • How the excess deaths in 2020 might have looked lighter if winter mortality in 2018/19 had been in line with the 2015-18 average.

  • A comparison with similar excess deaths measures from Germany and Sweden.

We find that the number of excess deaths in 2020 is materially higher than can be explained by either a reasonable change in benchmark or the effect of low mortality during the winter of 2018/19.


The high number of excess deaths in the UK is a genuine feature, not simply a consequence of low winter deaths in 2018/19.

Are the excess deaths in 2020 just a sho
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