September deaths ‘broadly in line’ with previous years after April spike - CSO

ireland
The CSO is tracking 'real time' mortality trends in Ireland during the Covid-19 pandemic.
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By Sarah Mooney

The number of deaths seen this September is “broadly in line” with the mortality statistics of previous years, a new analysis by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has found.

The CSO undertook an “experimental” analysis of death notices posted on the website RIP.ie in an attempt to track “real time” mortality trends in Ireland during the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the 2,353 death notices posted in September 2020 were in line with previous years, there was a “pronounced increase” in death notices placed in April 2020.

This spike saw the number of death notices rise from 2,861 in March to 3,502 the following month.

In comparison, the average number of deaths for April during the years 2013 to 2017 was around 2,500.

Excess mortality

Throughout the months of the pandemic from March to September 2020, the CSO has estimated “excess mortality” in Ireland to be between 876 and 1,192 deaths.

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Excess mortality is the number of deaths above those likely to be experienced under normal circumstances.

The CSO said as excess mortality is estimated to be lower than the 1,806 deaths reported in connection with Covid-19, it indicates the Department of Health's data on Covid-19 "comprehensively captures the impact of the pandemic on mortality in Ireland.”

Due to the Irish custom of holding funerals within two to three days following death, these notices are usually placed in a fast and efficient manner

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we began to explore experimental ways of obtaining up-to-date mortality data,” CSO statistician John Flanaghan said.

“Since the end of March 2020, the CSO has been using the website RIP.ie to keep track of death notices... Due to the Irish custom of holding funerals within two to three days following death, these notices are usually placed in a fast and efficient manner, providing a valuable crowd-sourced means of tracking deaths.”

The CSO found that the average length of time between the date of death and publication on RIP.ie to be just over one day, compared to a statutory time limit for the registration of deaths in the State of three months.

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It cautioned that its analysis of excess mortality was a “speculative estimate based on experimental data” which had not been adjusted to account for changes in population age, structure or other factors.

The CSO also found a recent increase in death notices mentioning “home” as the place of death, rising from around 16 per cent in October 2019 to around 25 per cent in September.

Mentions of HIQA registered older person’s facilities declined from a high of 1,237 in April 2020 to 457 in September 2020.

The CSO’s full analysis can be found here.

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