COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2020 and 2021
Tuesday, July 5, 2022
COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States between March 2020 and October 2021, according to an analysis of national death certificate data by researchers at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. The study appears on July 5 in JAMA internal medicine.
During the 20-month period studied, COVID-19 accounted for 1 in 8 deaths (or 350,000 deaths) in the United States. Heart disease was the leading cause of death, followed by cancer, with these two causes accounting for a total of 1.29 million deaths. Accidents and strokes were the fourth and fifth leading causes of death. In every age group 15 years and older, COVID-19 was one of the top five causes of death during this period.
When the authors analyzed deaths in 2020 (March-December) and 2021 (January-October) separately, they found that in 2020, COVID-19 was the fourth and fifth leading cause of death among people aged 45 to 54 years old and 35 to 44 years old. , respectively. But in 2021, COVID-19 has become the first and second leading cause of death in these age groups. Among people aged 85 and over, COVID-19 was the second leading cause of death in 2020, but fell to third in 2021, likely due to targeted vaccination efforts in this age group.
The pandemic has also had an indirect effect on other causes of death in the United States. Past data showed that deaths from other causes, including heart disease, accidents, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, increased from 2019 to 2020, possibly because people were hesitant to see a doctor for fear of catching COVID-19. Additional impacts of the pandemic on other causes of death may emerge in coming years, the researchers said. For example, the pandemic has prevented many people from getting regular cancer screening, which could lead to a future increase in cancer deaths.
Meredith S. Shiels, Ph.D., Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute
“Leading causes of death in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, March 2020 through October 2021” appears July 5 in JAMA internal medicine.
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