Why are so many English workers dying from Covid-19?

This surprising news from John Burn-Murdoch of the Financial Times greeted me on my Twitter feed this morning:

The article by Janine Aron and John Muellbauer that John linked to points out that:

Excess mortality is a count of deaths from all causes relative to what would normally have been expected. In a pandemic, deaths rise sharply, but causes are often inaccurately recorded. The death count attributed to Covid-19 may thus be significantly undercounted. Excess mortality data overcome two problems in reporting Covid-19-related deaths: miscounting from misdiagnosis or under-reporting of Covid-19-related deaths is avoided. Excess mortality data include ‘collateral damage’ from other health conditions, left untreated if the health system is overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases.

To obtain cross-European comparisons requires data collation from individual national agencies – unless the Z-scores compiled by EuroMOMO for 24 states are used. EuroMOMO’s timely measures of weekly excess mortality in Europe allow comparisons of the mortality patterns between different time periods and countries, and by age groups.

Analysing excess mortality using EuroMOMO Z-scores rather than just deaths attributed to Covid-19 Aron and Muellbauer discovered that:

Most disturbing is the comparative story for the 15-64 age group, where England’s relative record in excess mortality in the Covid-19 era is strikingly higher than in the European countries. The 15-64 age group includes the mass of the working age population. At its peak in week 15, it is 2.8 times worse than the weekly peak in next worst country, Spain, around 4 times worse than France and Belgium, and more than 5 times worse than in Italy. Within the UK, excess deaths for this age group are also strikingly worse for England than for the other nations. Puzzling too, is that Z-scores in the 65-74 age group for England, see Table 2, are similar to the 15-64 age group. By contrast, in the five European countries, excess deaths in the 65-74 age group are about twice as high as for the 15-64 age group, though still below the 65+ age group.

England is the only country in Europe, for which Z-scores for the 15-64 group had not decreased below about 2 by week 18, ending 3 May.

What is the reason for this strange English anomaly? Watch this space!

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