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U.S. Death Counts Have Climbed for All Adult Age Groups: Actuary

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What You Need to Know

  • The actual number of deaths for people of all ages has been 18.4% higher than the expected number.
  • For women, the worst actual-to-expected death ratio is for the 35-44 age group.
  • For men, the highest percentage of excess deaths was was for the 35-54 age group.

COVID-19 is much more likely to kill older than younger people in the United States, but it also has led to a sharp increase in the death rate for working-age U.S. adults, an actuary says in a new report.

The ratio of the actual number of deaths to the expected number deaths is larger — meaning worse — for U.S. adults ages 35 through 64 than for U.S. adults ages 65 and older.

Rick Leavitt, a consulting actuary, has presented that assessment in a new study on 2020 excess mortality in the United States that was published by the Society of Actuaries (SOA).

From March 22, 2020, through Dec. 26, 2020, the ratio of the actual number of people who died in the United States to the expected number was 120%, Leavitt writes in the study.

In other words: The total number of deaths was about 20% higher than normal.

For all of 2020, the total number of deaths was about 14% to 16% higher than expected, according to Leavitt.

Leavitt determined what the expected death numbers were by getting and analyzing death count data from the most.

Actual-to-Expected Ratios by Age

Here’s what the actual-deaths-to-expected-deaths ratios looked like for four age groups over that same period, according to Leavitt’s analysis of federal government data:

  • Under 15: 93.1%
  • 15-34: 120.2%
  • 35-64: 125.2%
  • 65 and Older: 120%

Age and Sex

Leavitt also created a table that shows how both age and sex correlated with the actual-to-expected death count figures.

For girls ages 1 to 4, for example, the actual number of deaths was just 86.8% of the expected number. The number of deaths was more than 13% lower than expected.

For all female U.S. residents, the ratio was 118.4%, meaning that there were 18.4% more deaths of women and girls than expected.

The ratio was 119.9% for women ages 75 through 84, 118.4% for women ages 85 and older — and 122% for women ages 35 through 44.

Similarly, for all men and boys, the actual-number of deaths-to-expected-number ratio was 120.9% for all men and boys, 122.2% for men ages 75 through 84, 118.4% for men ages 85 and older — and 126.9% both for men ages 35 through 44 and for men ages 45 through 54.

Reasons

Leavitt’s main actual-to-death ratio statistics involve deaths resulting from all causes.

Leavitt also used the cause of death information in the government data to show what percentage of deaths, for each group of people analyzed, was officially attributed to COVID-19, and what percentage was not attributed to COVID-19.

He found that, overall, about 84% of the excess deaths recorded from March 22, 2020, through Dec. 26, 2020, were due to COVID-19.

When Leavitt looked at what caused the excess number of deaths in each age group, he found that COVID-19 was the main driver for both men and women ages 45 and older.

For people in each age group under 45, a majority of the excess deaths were attributed to causes other than COVID-19.

Leavitt does not talk about why non-COVID-19 factors appeared to increase the death rate for people under 45.

Here are some possible factors other analysts have been talking about:

  • Inaccurate classifications of deaths that were actually caused by COVID-19.
  • An increase in depression, anxiety and substance use due to COVID-19 and pandemic-related social distancing and shelter-at-home rules.
  • The stress the COVID-19 pandemic put on the U.S. health care system, including hospital intensive care units.
  • People’s failure to get a normal level of preventive care and ordinary sick care, due to fear of using health care resources during the pandemic.