COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death among Americans between March 2020 and October 2021, accounting for one in every eight deaths.
In that time frame, COVID-19 was ranked among the top five causes of death for people over the age of 15. Between January and October 2021, the pandemic disease was the leading cause of death among people aged 45 to 54.
That’s all, according to a study of national death certificate data published Tuesday in JAMA Internal Medicine by researchers at the National Institutes of Health.
The study found that there were around 700,000 deaths from COVID-19 between March 2020 and October 2021. Epidemic disease only gave rise to heart disease and cancer, which collectively caused about 2.15 million in that time frame. The fourth and fifth deadliest accidents in the US were accident deaths—which include car accidents, overdoses and alcohol-related deaths—and strokes, which collectively caused approximately 624,000 deaths during that period.
The authors, led by Meredith Shiels, an expert in cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute, divided the time frame into two sections: March 2020 to December 2020 onset of the pandemic, and January 2021 to October 2021. Last month for which there was complete data. This revealed age-specific trends, partly driven by vaccines and other mitigation efforts.
In the 2020 period, COVID-19 was the second leading cause of death in people aged 85 years and above, but, due to the high immunization in this age group, it became the third leading cause of death from January to October 2021.
Younger adults saw the opposite trend. For people aged 45 to 54, COVID-19 was the fourth leading cause of death in the 2020 period, but became the leading cause of death in 2021. Similarly, among people aged 35 to 44, COVID-19 jumped to the fifth leading cause. Second leading cause of death in 2020 to 2021. And for people aged 15 to 24 and 25 to 34, COVID-19 was not in the top five in 2020, but was ranked as the fourth leading cause of death in both age groups. in 2021.
For people aged 55 to 84, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in both time periods.
The study is limited by the potential for misclassification of deaths on death certificates. But the authors were careful to select a time cutoff that would limit provisional or incomplete data, skewing conclusions. However, this meant that the January 2022 deaths from part of the delta wave or giant Omicron wave were not included in the study. Since October 2021, an additional 300,000 people in the US have died of COVID-19.