University of Tübingen: Global study on mortality in the COVID-19 pandemic

By building what is currently the largest collection of worldwide death data, a German-Israeli research team has prepared the deadly effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 103 countries in a comparable form. The mortality rates related to certain periods of the pandemic allow a picture of the situation regardless of the corona test strategy and capacity, the reported number of infections or the reporting policy of a country. In their study, Dr. Dmitry Kobak from the Research Institute for Ophthalmology at the University of Tübingen and Ariel Karlinsky from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem of extreme differences: While the death rate in some Latin American countries rose by more than half in the pandemic, In fact, fewer people died in Australia and New Zealand than in comparable periods before the pandemic. In Germany, the excess mortality rate – the number of deaths above the expected mortality rate – remained below that of neighboring European countries. The results were published online in the specialist journaleLife .

For a certain population, expected death rates can be calculated over the coming months and years on the basis of the corresponding data from previous comparable periods of time. Pandemics, wars and natural or man-made disasters cause additional deaths beyond the expected numbers.

Publicly available data collection
“The dates of death are independent of numerous other aspects and are therefore very meaningful,” says Ariel Karlinsky. “Until now, however, there was no global, up-to-date collection of these numbers.” To fill this gap, Ariel Karlinsky and Dmitry Kobak collected weekly, monthly and quarterly death data from 103 countries and regions, which they made publicly available in the World Mortality Dataset to have. They themselves used this data to record the death rates of the individual countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were interested in whether there was excess mortality from the pandemic, and if so, to what extent – and whether the numbers were comparable across the countries,” says Karlinsky. The analyzes found that in some of the countries worst hit by COVID-19 – particularly Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Mexico – excess mortality was more than 50 percent of the expected annual mortality rate, or more than 400 additional deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in Peru, Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Serbia. At the same time, mortality in countries like Australia and New Zealand was below normal during the pandemic. The authors assume that this was due to the distance and hygiene rules, which reduced deaths from infections other than COVID-19. They also found

Relatively low excess mortality in Germany
According to the study, the excess mortality rate in Germany during the pandemic has so far been around 40,000 deaths. “That is much less than the 90,000 officially reported deaths from COVID-19,” says Kobak. Probably the death rate from other respiratory diseases fell during the winter months. With 50 additional deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, Germany experienced a much lower excess mortality in the pandemic than surrounding European countries (Netherlands: 110; Belgium: 140; France: 110; Switzerland: 100; Austria: 110, Czech Republic: 320; Poland: 310) – except Denmark, which had no excess mortality.

“Overall, our results give us a comprehensive picture of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that this will give us a better understanding of the pandemic and that the success of various containment measures will be better recorded, ”says Kobak. “Our database should also help other researchers to answer their questions about the pandemic.” The World Mortality Dataset should be expanded and continue to be updated.

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