NEWS22 February 2024

UK introduces new methodology to estimate excess deaths

News Public Sector UK

UK – The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has led the development of a new method for estimating the number of excess deaths across the UK.

magnifying glass on laptop

The new method uses age-specific mortality rates to estimate the expected number of deaths used in the calculation of excess mortality – the difference between the actual and expected number of deaths – rather than death counts.

According to the ONS, this means trends in population size and age structure will be taken into account.

The new approach also accounts for trends in population mortality rates, the ONS said.

A comparison of the two methods found similar estimations of excess deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic – on an annual basis, the new method estimates 76,412 excess deaths in the UK in 2020, compared with 84,064 estimated by the old method.

However, for 2023, there is a greater difference in the number of excess deaths estimated by the new method – 10,994, which is 20,448 fewer than the previous approach.

Daniel Ayoubkhani, ONS, said: “During the peak-pandemic years, we saw dramatic increases in mortality rates. It was a stark example of a public health threat resulting in many more deaths than we would have expected in a ‘normal’ year. 

“In the spirit of continuous improvement, we’ve been working with independent experts, and those across government and the devolved nations, to develop a common UK-wide approach.

“Using our new methodology, this release shows tragically there were an estimated 11,000 excess deaths in 2023. This is lower than our previous estimate because our new method accounts for the growth and ageing of the population. These are key factors in understanding how many deaths we would expect to see and whether the actual number of deaths is below, or above, this estimate.   

“Looking more closely at the last months of 2023, there were actually negative excess deaths, meaning fewer deaths than average being registered.”


1 Comment

2 months ago

As a retired charted engineer, I can follow most of the statistical justifications and appreciate when dealing with large numbers (populations) changes of 10, 000s can possibly be produced. I'm surprised there is such a difference, between models for post pandemic years in as much the previous model would have over estimated age relateted deaths, in that more elderly people with comorbidities would of been removed from the population due to covid thus resulting in fewer deaths from the older part of the population but in actual fact deaths still exceeded the forecasted death rate. The new forecasting model supposedly follows the same population better and now forecasts more deaths from what should be a healthier population, thereby reducing excess death figures. Are we getting sicker? As with all modelling, the devil is in the detail, experts have excelled this proposed change, but I've not seen the actual detail.

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