According to new figures, England and Wales recorded more deaths in 2020 than any other year since 1918.
According to preliminary information from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), around 608,002 deaths were recorded between January 1 and December 31.
This is higher than any calendar year since 1918, the year of the “Spanish flu,” when 611,861 deaths were recorded.
However, changes in the age and size of the population mean that this is not a comparable comparison.
The population of England and Wales was 34 million in 1918, compared to around 60 million today.
This means that proportionally more people died in 1918 than in 2020.
Sarah Caul, Head of ONS Mortality Analysis, said, “Comparing today’s numbers with the 20th and late 19th centuries does not help us understand current mortality patterns.
“For the best comparisons, we really need to look at age-standardized death rates.
“The population has changed and grown over time, so in many ways we can expect an increase in the number of deaths.
“Age-standardized mortality rates (ASMRs) take into account both the size of the population and the age structure and thus enable a time comparison. You would expect more deaths in a population with more elderly people, and ASMRs make up the population differences so you can compare like to like. “
Age-standardized mortality rates in England and Wales only go back to 1981, when the number was 1,666.5 deaths per 100,000 population.
The corresponding rate for England and Wales in 2020 is estimated at 1,043.5 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, according to preliminary ONS data.
This would be the highest death rate since 2008.
The ONS also compared the total number of registered deaths in 2020 to the long-term average to determine how many additional deaths – or “excessive deaths” – had occurred.
The total number of registered deaths in England and Wales in 2020 was provisionally 75,925 above the 2015-2019 average.
It was also 77,161 higher than the number recorded in 2019 – the biggest year-over-year increase since 1940.
Compared to 10 and 20 years ago, the number of deaths in 2020 was 123,636 and 75,504 higher, respectively, the ONS added.