Over the past couple of months, deaths in England and Wales have been higher than would be expected for a typical summer. In July and August, there were several weeks with deaths 10% to 13% above the five-year average, meaning that in England about 900 extra people a week were dying compared with the past few years.
The leading causes of death are within the typical range (the five-year average): heart and lung diseases, cancers, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Covid-19 deaths could account for half of the excess mortality, but the other half is puzzling, as there’s no one clear reason that jumps out.
It’s likely to be a mix of factors: Covid is making us sicker and more vulnerable to other diseases (research suggests it may contribute to delayed heart attacks, strokes, and dementia); an ageing population; an extremely hot summer; and an overloaded health service meaning that people are dying from lack of timely medical care.
The excess mortality puzzle has been weaponised by some to argue that this is a delayed consequence of lockdown. In essence, this is to say that mandatory restrictions on mixing and stay-at-home legal orders, as well as turning the NHS into a Covid health service during the first and second waves of infection, prevented people from being diagnosed or treated for other conditions such as cancer, heart disease, or even depression – and that those long-hidden conditions are now killing people.
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Source: The Guardian, 13 September 2022