Excessive mortality in 2021 caused by heat, aging population and COVID-19

Sunbathers and swimmers on an Estonian beach.
Sunbathers and swimmers on an Estonian beach. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Last year, deaths in Estonia increased around 20 percent compared to the year prior. The coronavirus and heat waves in the summer are behind the drastic jump with an aging population supplementing them.

Last year, there were 18,445 deaths in Estonia, an increase of 2,724 from 2020. That is a ten-fold increase from normal fluctuation, data from Statistics Estonia shows.

Analyst Terje Trasberg said normal fluctuation tends to stay around 300, but last year's excessive mortality can be considered drastic. "It was a significant jump," Trasberg noted.

Last year's mortality graph shows three peaks - one longer-lasting one to end spring, one shorter in the summer and one with several smaller peaks in autumn. "In the summer, not as many people die usually. But last year saw a very high peak. That was when the hot weather came in," the analyst said.

The jump was so significant in fact that analysts began doubting the validity of the data, but all checks confirmed that there were so many more deaths this summer than over the previous years.

"We had a lot of older people who were affected really badly by the heat. The number of deaths was very-very high, this was one of the reasons for the excessive mortality," Trasberg said. "Another reason that we just cannot leave unmentioned was the coronavirus."

Last year's coronavirus deaths are not all confirmed yet - the National Institute for Health Development will check all of the cases and will correct the data with a small delay. Current data has been corrected up to Octobe - there were 73 coronavirus deaths reported in the first 10 months of 2020, but a whopping 1,300 coronavirus deaths in the first 10 months of 2021.

"If we were to compare last year to 2020, then there were very few coronavirus deaths in 2020," the analyst said. "Last spring saw a wave of deaths and autumn, as well, mortality rates can be seen increasing with coronavirus waves."

But Estonia is also an aging population, which has caused mortality into such a drastic jump. "The main reason is that we have an aging population, many older people. They are more sensitive to both the coronavirus and the heat," Trasberg said.

Respiratory diseases, which include the coronavirus, and circulatory diseases have made the biggest leaps in death diagnoses - especially for the elderly as the heart often cannot tolerate heat. However, there were many heart diseases all year, because there was a stable amount of death among the elderly throughout, in addition to the aforementioned peaks.

Since the population continues to age, the number of deaths will likely be high for years to come, the Statistics Estonia analyst noted.


Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!

Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

Hea lugeja, näeme et kasutate vanemat brauseri versiooni või vähelevinud brauserit.

Parema ja terviklikuma kasutajakogemuse tagamiseks soovitame alla laadida uusim versioon mõnest meie toetatud brauserist: