Maybe some of you have already noticed this, but I was looking at excess death statistics on EuroMOMO (European mortality monitoring), and I think I might have found some interesting statistical evidence that seems to agree with the idea that lockdown-related policies literally worsened health outcomes of COVID-19 for people in certain age groups (namely, middle-aged and slightly older people).
Specifically, I was looking at Z-scores by country – I’m not a statistician, but here’s the information provided on how to interpret them: “Z-scores are used to standardize series and enable comparison mortality pattern between different populations or between different time periods.”
With that in mind, I decided to compare Sweden (for obvious reasons) and Germany (where I live and where there have been a lot of lockdowns over the past year) by weekly Z-score across different age groups from the beginning of 2020 until now. Again with the caveat that I’m no statistician, it seems to me that the numbers paint an interesting picture, one in which lockdown-related policies saved some lives initially but ultimately caused much higher mortality in the middle-aged population over the course of the pandemic so far. To see what I mean, have a look at these graphs:
This shows excess mortality for those over 85 years old. As you can see, Sweden had several weeks in the spring of 2020 with much higher rates of excess death than Germany. However, Germany then had a spike of excess deaths in the summer as well as much higher rates of excess death the following winter – so it appears that the lockdown at best had the effect of delaying death, rather than preventing it, when it came to those in the 85+ age group.
Here we see excess mortality for those aged 65-74, and this is where things seem to get interesting. As you probably noticed, Sweden had initially higher rates of excess death in this age group during the spring of 2020, but as the year goes on, rates fall and tend to stay within the normal range in Sweden. In Germany, however, things get worse over the course of the year and into 2021.
Finally, this one is for those aged 0-14 – not really much to say about this one but wanted to include it for the sake of completeness. For some reason, Sweden actually experienced some weeks of higher-than-normal excess death here.
In general, this seems to me to imply that lockdowns fostered negative health outcomes for those aged 45-74, probably in some cases even causing individuals who would have otherwise survived COVID-19 to pass away from it (since COVID-19 was likely a primary driver of many of these excess deaths). If anyone has anything to add (expertise, feedback, criticism), feel free to weigh in.
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