Premature Mortality During COVID-19 in the U.S. and Peer Countries

This analysis examines changes in excess mortality and prematurity of those deaths in the U.S. and peer countries for 2020 and 2021. Using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weekly excess deaths data and the World Health Organization (WHO) all-cause excess death data, we compare excess mortality in the U.S. and other large and wealthy countries through 2021 and estimates the years of life lost, a measure of the prematurity of those excess deaths, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Excess deaths are the number of deaths beyond what would have been expected in a typical year and can be due directly or indirectly to COVID-19, as well as other causes.

When compared to other countries and adjusted for population size, the U.S. had the highest excess mortality rate among similarly large and wealthy countries for the period 2020-2021—the most recent data available for all these countries. In addition the U.S. also saw a higher rate of death among younger people, and thus a larger increase in premature deaths per capita than peer countries.

The analysis is available through the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker, an online information hub that monitors and assesses the performance of the U.S. health system.

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