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Dr. Michael Fulks MDJun 17, 2021 10:41:00 AM1 min read

2020 US Mortality Results: How do they compare to prior years?

Dr. Michael Fulks, Consulting Medical Director to CRL, comments on the 2020 leading causes of death in a COVID-19 world.

The following table from JAMA, published in March 2021, tells us that there were roughly 500,000 more deaths in 2020 than 2019, a considerable increase of 17.7%. More than 345,000 of those deaths were due to COVID-19. When examining heart disease deaths and Alzheimer deaths, the increases are likely COVID-related as well, but were undiagnosed for those in home care or assisted living. We can only hope the same is true for diabetes-related deaths, but that increase may instead reflect the ongoing DM/obesity epidemic in the US. And let us not forget drug use and the lethality of fentanyl in street drugs leading to a huge increase in unintentional injury deaths.

Credit: JAMA

This is not particularly good news for life actuaries, but the COVID-19 deaths are hopefully largely behind us, while cancer therapy and prevention are making progress. It is unclear whether the same hopeful outlook can be applied to diabetes, resultant CV disease and drug deaths.

About the Author

Michael Fulks, MD, Consulting Medical Director, is board-certified in internal and insurance medicine. After leaving practice, he served as a medical director, creating or editing several underwriting manuals and preferred programs. For the past 8 years, Dr. Fulks has consulted for CRL, participating in its mortality research on individual tests and all laboratory test results, BP and build in combination. He is also involved in the development and implementation of automated screening tools for non-laboratory data.