Excess deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic compared with those expected from historical trends have been unequally distributed, both geographically and socioeconomically. Not all excess deaths have been directly related to COVID-19 infection. We investigated geographical and socioeconomic patterns in excess deaths for major groups of underlying causes during the pandemic.
Weekly mortality data from 27/12/2014 to 2/10/2020 for England and Wales were obtained from the Office of National Statistics. Negative binomial regressions were used to model death counts based on pre-pandemic trends for deaths caused directly by COVID-19 (and other respiratory causes) and those caused indirectly by it (cardiovascular disease or diabetes, cancers, and all other indirect causes) over the first 30 weeks of the pandemic (7/3/2020 –2/10/2020).
There were 62,321 (95% CI: 58,849 to 65,793) excess deaths in England and Wales in the first 30 weeks of the pandemic. Of these, 46,221 (95% CI: 45,439 to 47,003) were attributable to respiratory causes, including COVID-19, and 16,100 (95% CI: 13,410 to 18,790) to other causes. Rates of all-cause excess mortality ranged from 78 per 100,000 in the South West of England and in Wales to 130 per 100,000 in the West Midlands; and from 93 per 100,000 in the most affluent fifth of areas to 124 per 100,000 in the most deprived. The most deprived areas had the highest rates of death attributable to COVID-19 and other indirect deaths, but there was no socioeconomic gradient for excess deaths from cardiovascular disease/diabetes and cancer.
During the first 30 weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic there was significant geographic and socioeconomic variation in excess deaths for respiratory causes, but not for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Pandemic recovery plans, including vaccination programmes, should take account of individual characteristics including health, socioeconomic status and place of residence.