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September mortality statistics ‘broadly in line’ with previous years, CSO says

Excess mortality for between March and September is estimated to be between 876 and 1,192 deaths

Covid-19 does not seem to have caused a large increase in mortality statistics, as new figures show the number of deaths in September was “broadly in line” with previous years’ mortality statistics. Photograph: iStock

Covid-19 does not seem to have caused a large increase in mortality statistics, in September as new figures show the number of deaths in that month was “broadly in line” with previous years’ mortality statistics.

According to an analysis of death notices on RIP.ie, published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on Monday, excess mortality for between March and September is estimated to be between 876 and 1,192 deaths.

Excess mortality is a term used to describe the number of deaths that occurred over and above what would have been expected to see under normal conditions.

However, this latest excess mortality figure is substantially lower than the 1,806 Covid-19 deaths officially reported to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) over this period.

The Health Information Quality Authority (Hiqa) has previously suggested that Ireland’s official Covid-19 deathtoll was overstated.

In a July report, the health watchdog suggested this could be due to the inclusion within official figures of people who were infected with coronavirus at the time of death but whose cause of death may have been “predominantly” due to other factors.

Death notices

According to the CSO, the number of death notices observed for September 2020 was 2,353 which is broadly in line with previous years’ mortality statistics.

Statistician John Flanagan said the “most notable” increase in death notices was in April, during the peak of the pandemic.

“Numbers of deaths notices increased to 3,502 in April from 2,861 in March. In comparison, the average number of deaths for April for the years 2013-2017 was approximately 2,500. Death notices for September stand at 2,353,” he said.

The CSO added that the number of death notices decreased in May and June, to 2,639 and 2,205 respectively, and has begun to rise slowly between July and September 2020 in line with the trends seen in previous years.

The CSO report also details data on the place of death for more than 80 per cent of cases, using information in the death notice such as “at home”, “in the loving care of staff in a named nursing home”, or “peacefully, at a named hospice”.

Information on the place of death shows increases in death notices mentioning “home: as the place of death, rising from 16.1 per cent in October 2019 to 25.8 per cent in September 2020.

The number of death notices which mentioned Hiqa-registered older person’s facilities declined from a high of 1,237 in April 2020 to 457 in September 2020.

In terms of gender breakdown, 51.2 per cent of all death notices from September were men, while 48.8 per cent were women.

The highest percentage of death notices for males was in March 2020 (53.3 per cent), when there were 89 deaths of males due to Covid-19 compared with 36 deaths of females.

However, the CSO has cautioned that this figure is based on “experimental data”, and assumes, in the absence of Covid-19 deaths, mortality would have followed a similar trajectory to previous years. It does not take into consideration an ageing population or other factors.

The CSO analysis figures are compiled through an examination of all the death notices published on RIP.ie rather than official death registry figures.

This is because the average length of time between the date of death and publication of a death notice on RIP.ie is just 1.1 days compared with the statutory time limit of three months for the official registration of deaths in the State.

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