Tens of thousands more Brits were dying than expected and experts aren’t quite sure why that is.
From May to December last year, there were 32,441 excess deaths in England and Wales, excluding deaths from Covid.
Excess deaths are defined as the number of people who died above the five-year average – worked out excluding 2020 due to how Covid spiked death figures that year.
This means that over 32,000 Brits would’ve been expected to be alive, but died according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures across this period.
These shocking figures raised a number of important questions about what is happening to the country’s populations, how it’s changing, and why so many more people are dying.
Ever since the Covid pandemic, excess deaths have fluctuated wildly month on month, tumbling well below the five-year average or spiking far above it.
The spikes in excess deaths can be attributed to a number of causes, but it isn’t clear what’s driving these spikes or causing these drop-offs.
Similarly, earlier in 2022, excess deaths dipped well below average levels, with one expert group speculating to the Mirror that a ‘mortality displacement’ effect might explain why so many deaths are bunched up in the space of several months, being passed on from the months prior.
Professor David Coleman, Emeritus Professor of Demography at Oxford University, told the Mirror that no one knew for certain what had caused so many deaths throughout last year.
He pointed out that, post Covid, the UK’s population had been changed through the deaths of a significant proportion of elderly due to the virus.
He explained: “Once those poor people have been packed off, the remaining population should be healthier, there should be a period afterwards where deaths are lower than usual but that hasn’t happened.”
But he highlighted two key reasons that could contribute towards spiking excess deaths, the fact Britain’s getting older, and gaining a larger average body-mass index.
“The population is getting older, and also the population in Britain is the fattest in Europe and rather vulnerable to diseases notably heart disease and diabetes; some people have been forecasting separately from Covid that death rates would continue to get worse because the country is so unhealthy,” he said.
One of the noted causes behind a number of the excess deaths were ischaemic heart diseases – which would track with the professor’s warnings of a fatter population.
Similarly, when looking at the leading cause of death across much of 2022, it’s dementia and Alzheimers – further supporting theories of an increasingly greying, and dying, population.
Dementia and Alzheimers often aren’t the leading cause of excess deaths, when that data is available, according to ONS figures, it’s often pneumonia and influenza during the winter or symptoms, signs and ill-defined conditions in other parts of the year.
Read More: Brits are dying in their tens of thousands