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A CSO Frontier Series Output - What is this?

Measuring Mortality Using Public Data Sources 2019-2021

October 2019 - March 2021: Experimental Analysis

CSO statistical release, , 11am

Experimental analysis of the website www.RIP.ie as a more timely source of trends in mortality

Introduction

The CSO has a policy of careful and considered investigation of a data source before employing it to inform official statistics. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CSO began to explore experimental ways of obtaining up-to-date mortality data.

Due to the Irish custom of holding funerals within two to three days following death, these notices are usually placed in a fast and efficient manner, providing a valuable crowd-sourced means of tracking deaths. The notices are placed close to 'real time', the average length of time between date of death and publication is about 1.1 days. When compared with the statutory time limit of three months1 for the registrations of deaths in the State, this is a timelier data source for monitoring trends in mortality.

The CSO published the first analysis of death notices using the website RIP.ie in July 2020. The initial analysis explored the use of death notices on RIP.ie to measure trends in mortality, finding a strong correlation between death notices and official CSO mortality statistics. In November 2020, subsequent analysis continued on this work, expanding the excess mortality analysis as well as updating the data to include 12 months’ worth of RIP.ie death notices.

Analysis of death notices was conducted as far back as 01 October 2019, to include the last month before the first global cases of COVID-19 were notified. This updated release covers the period October 2019 to March 2021 providing a full 18-month analysis of trends in mortality using death notices.

RIP.ie death notices (cleaned)RIP.ie (trailing average t=7)COVID-19 confirmed deathsNotices mentioning a HIQA registered older persons' facility
1 Oct 198624
2 Oct 197121
3 Oct 198722
4 Oct 198026
5 Oct 196912
6 Oct 198214
7 Oct 19858018
8 Oct 197478.285714285714319
9 Oct 198980.857142857142917
10 Oct 198981.142857142857128
11 Oct 198782.142857142857124
12 Oct 198484.285714285714320
13 Oct 198885.142857142857118
14 Oct 198785.428571428571426
15 Oct 19928825
16 Oct 19898823
17 Oct 197385.714285714285717
18 Oct 197984.571428571428618
19 Oct 198985.285714285714324
20 Oct 198584.857142857142918
21 Oct 19818423
22 Oct 19998517
23 Oct 199886.285714285714324
24 Oct 198087.28571428571438
25 Oct 198988.714285714285722
26 Oct 197286.285714285714316
27 Oct 198586.285714285714319
28 Oct 199788.571428571428623
29 Oct 199187.428571428571432
30 Oct 199386.714285714285723
31 Oct 197786.285714285714321
1 Nov 1911690.142857142857127
2 Nov 197790.857142857142924
3 Nov 19869117
4 Nov 198689.428571428571424
5 Nov 198588.571428571428627
6 Nov 197185.428571428571422
7 Nov 199187.428571428571418
8 Nov 198883.428571428571421
9 Nov 19888523
10 Nov 198885.285714285714318
11 Nov 19988727
12 Nov 198787.285714285714315
13 Nov 198989.857142857142923
14 Nov 1910792.142857142857122
15 Nov 197890.714285714285720
16 Nov 197789.142857142857122
17 Nov 198889.142857142857122
18 Nov 199388.428571428571426
19 Nov 198788.428571428571423
20 Nov 1911592.142857142857137
21 Nov 19858915
22 Nov 1910392.571428571428632
23 Nov 199194.571428571428625
24 Nov 198093.428571428571421
25 Nov 199894.142857142857131
26 Nov 1910997.285714285714329
27 Nov 197992.142857142857117
28 Nov 19989425
29 Nov 19688915
30 Nov 199088.857142857142920
1 Dec 198789.857142857142916
2 Dec 198888.428571428571420
3 Dec 1910187.285714285714325
4 Dec 198287.714285714285725
5 Dec 199487.142857142857115
6 Dec 199090.285714285714325
7 Dec 199490.857142857142924
8 Dec 199091.285714285714320
9 Dec 198090.142857142857123
10 Dec 1910190.142857142857125
11 Dec 199391.714285714285727
12 Dec 1910793.571428571428634
13 Dec 198893.285714285714318
14 Dec 199893.857142857142923
15 Dec 1910796.285714285714321
16 Dec 19112100.85714285714333
17 Dec 19106101.57142857142928
18 Dec 19104103.14285714285726
19 Dec 1993101.14285714285720
20 Dec 19103103.28571428571420
21 Dec 19109104.85714285714327
22 Dec 1998103.57142857142925
23 Dec 1998101.57142857142934
24 Dec 1999100.57142857142926
25 Dec 198597.857142857142924
26 Dec 199197.571428571428621
27 Dec 1910898.285714285714329
28 Dec 1911298.714285714285732
29 Dec 19116101.28571428571422
30 Dec 1911010329
31 Dec 19108104.28571428571426
1 Jan 2099106.28571428571422
2 Jan 20102107.85714285714324
3 Jan 20104107.28571428571427
4 Jan 20102105.85714285714330
5 Jan 2084101.28571428571421
6 Jan 209899.571428571428626
7 Jan 2010398.857142857142933
8 Jan 2010499.571428571428616
9 Jan 20108100.42857142857135
10 Jan 2011510229
11 Jan 2090100.28571428571422
12 Jan 20122105.71428571428630
13 Jan 20109107.28571428571427
14 Jan 208710515
15 Jan 2094103.57142857142923
16 Jan 2092101.28571428571418
17 Jan 207795.857142857142916
18 Jan 209296.142857142857120
19 Jan 209692.428571428571417
20 Jan 207687.714285714285726
21 Jan 2010089.571428571428621
22 Jan 209389.428571428571420
23 Jan 208888.857142857142924
24 Jan 209791.714285714285727
25 Jan 208991.285714285714318
26 Jan 207888.714285714285711
27 Jan 208990.571428571428623
28 Jan 2010691.428571428571432
29 Jan 206587.428571428571414
30 Jan 2011491.142857142857133
31 Jan 207688.142857142857124
1 Feb 20958930
2 Feb 209090.714285714285724
3 Feb 208790.428571428571425
4 Feb 208387.142857142857121
5 Feb 209491.285714285714317
6 Feb 207986.285714285714320
7 Feb 209288.571428571428625
8 Feb 20988924
9 Feb 2010190.571428571428630
10 Feb 207989.428571428571426
11 Feb 209891.571428571428623
12 Feb 2010593.142857142857124
13 Feb 208894.428571428571421
14 Feb 2010996.857142857142932
15 Feb 209796.714285714285712
16 Feb 208594.428571428571425
17 Feb 209296.285714285714328
18 Feb 209295.428571428571419
19 Feb 209794.285714285714321
20 Feb 208794.142857142857125
21 Feb 208991.285714285714321
22 Feb 209390.714285714285735
23 Feb 207589.285714285714315
24 Feb 208988.857142857142924
25 Feb 209188.714285714285728
26 Feb 20858722
27 Feb 2010088.857142857142928
28 Feb 208988.857142857142922
29 Feb 208187.142857142857120
1 Mar 20888924
2 Mar 2010090.571428571428622
3 Mar 208890.142857142857127
4 Mar 207588.714285714285710
5 Mar 209187.428571428571422
6 Mar 209988.857142857142923
7 Mar 208889.857142857142921
8 Mar 209490.714285714285715
9 Mar 20748715
10 Mar 209187.428571428571421
11 Mar 209990.8571428571429121
12 Mar 209291023
13 Mar 208288.5714285714286022
14 Mar 209689.7142857142857124
15 Mar 208388.1428571428571023
16 Mar 208689.8571428571429021
17 Mar 209089.7142857142857019
18 Mar 208888.1428571428571115
19 Mar 209087.8571428571429128
20 Mar 208888.7142857142857326
21 Mar 209488.4285714285714531
22 Mar 209590.1428571428571224
23 Mar 209891.8571428571429632
24 Mar 209091.8571428571429724
25 Mar 2011595.7142857142857930
26 Mar 2010597.85714285714291620
27 Mar 208397.1428571428571426
28 Mar 209296.85714285714291419
29 Mar 209096.14285714285712026
30 Mar 2010396.85714285714291526
31 Mar 20117100.7142857142861942
1 Apr 2010899.71428571428572122
2 Apr 20108100.1428571428572124
3 Apr 20125106.1428571428573326
4 Apr 201401133945
5 Apr 20126118.1428571428573148
6 Apr 20103118.1428571428572827
7 Apr 20150122.8571428571434157
8 Apr 20121124.7142857142863241
9 Apr 20128127.5714285714293857
10 Apr 20115126.1428571428573746
11 Apr 20136125.5714285714293662
12 Apr 201431284356
13 Apr 20115129.7142857142863747
14 Apr 20134127.4285714285714247
15 Apr 20134129.2857142857144243
16 Apr 20122128.4285714285713244
17 Apr 20138131.7142857142863865
18 Apr 20109127.8571428571433952
19 Apr 2093120.7142857142862841
20 Apr 20126122.2857142857143139
21 Apr 201041183541
22 Apr 20100113.1428571428572929
23 Apr 20104110.5714285714293025
24 Apr 201201084245
25 Apr 2082104.1428571428571525
26 Apr 20115107.2857142857143637
27 Apr 20113105.4285714285712039
28 Apr 2096104.2857142857141940
29 Apr 20981042434
30 Apr 2098103.1428571428572633
1 May 209098.85714285714292135
2 May 20108102.5714285714292540
3 May 209199.14285714285712223
4 May 2091961431
5 May 208594.42857142857142329
6 May 2010695.57142857142862333
7 May 209695.28571428571431822
8 May 209495.85714285714291725
9 May 209794.28571428571431319
10 May 207892.4285714285714922
11 May 207289.71428571428571120
12 May 207588.2857142857143614
13 May 209686.85714285714291525
14 May 209386.4285714285714723
15 May 209085.85714285714291416
16 May 208584.1428571428571815
17 May 208885.57142857142861224
18 May 208687.5714285714286919
19 May 208488.8571428571429719
20 May 207085.1428571428571416
21 May 207081.8571428571429422
22 May 206978.8571428571429320
23 May 208478.7142857142857629
24 May 208077.5714285714286519
25 May 208777.7142857142857820
26 May 208577.8571428571429716
27 May 206677.2857142857143417
28 May 207578718
29 May 209281.2857142857143515
30 May 208381.1428571428571521
31 May 207380.142857142857137
1 Jun 208680318
2 Jun 208079.2857142857143218
3 Jun 206879.5714285714286517
4 Jun 206578.1428571428571312
5 Jun 207075316
6 Jun 207273.4285714285714415
7 Jun 207573.7142857142857616
8 Jun 208072.8571428571429319
9 Jun 207572.1428571428571217
10 Jun 208073.8571428571429422
11 Jun 205572.4285714285714115
12 Jun 208474.4285714285714226
13 Jun 207174.2857142857143118
14 Jun 208375.4285714285714213
15 Jun 208876.5714285714286220
16 Jun 207376.2857142857143214
17 Jun 205372.4285714285714214
18 Jun 208476.5714285714286222
19 Jun 208576.7142857142857010
20 Jun 207777.5714285714286012
21 Jun 205473.4285714285714216
22 Jun 206870.5714285714286613
23 Jun 207070.1428571428571113
24 Jun 207573.285714285714317
25 Jun 206770.8571428571429215
26 Jun 206868.4285714285714219
27 Jun 207367.8571428571429113
28 Jun 208171.7142857142857119
29 Jun 207973.2857142857143219
30 Jun 206672.7142857142857010
1 Jul 207072013
2 Jul 207272.7142857142857312
3 Jul 206972.8571428571429110
4 Jul 206571.714285714285707
5 Jul 205668.1428571428571110
6 Jul 206966.7142857142857012
7 Jul 207868.4285714285714215
8 Jul 207669.2857142857143011
9 Jul 206668.4285714285714013
10 Jul 207569.2857142857143016
11 Jul 207570.7142857142857016
12 Jul 207373.1428571428571113
13 Jul 208375.1428571428571115
14 Jul 206473.1428571428571212
15 Jul 208474.2857142857143020
16 Jul 208677.1428571428571019
17 Jul 208478.4285714285714116
18 Jul 207678.5714285714286012
19 Jul 207879.2857142857143016
20 Jul 207678.2857142857143015
21 Jul 207579.8571428571429118
22 Jul 206777.4285714285714020
23 Jul 207375.5714285714286117
24 Jul 208375.4285714285714019
25 Jul 207475.1428571428571015
26 Jul 206673.4285714285714020
27 Jul 207072.5714285714286023
28 Jul 204468.1428571428571012
29 Jul 206668111
30 Jul 208469.5714285714286123
31 Jul 206266.5714285714286012
1 Aug 207166.1428571428571017
2 Aug 207667.5714285714286013
3 Aug 207868.7142857142857019
4 Aug 206772011
5 Aug 208875.1428571428571024
6 Aug 207573.8571428571429019
7 Aug 208877.5714285714286126
8 Aug 206476.5714285714286117
9 Aug 207175.8571428571429118
10 Aug 207575.4285714285714012
11 Aug 206875.5714285714286016
12 Aug 207673.8571428571429011
13 Aug 208675.4285714285714013
14 Aug 207273.1428571428571112
15 Aug 207374.4285714285714017
16 Aug 207675.1428571428571013
17 Aug 207575.1428571428571015
18 Aug 207476019
19 Aug 206073.7142857142857111
20 Aug 208373.2857142857143024
21 Aug 207073012
22 Aug 208074018
23 Aug 209376.4285714285714013
24 Aug 206875.4285714285714114
25 Aug 208276.5714285714286026
26 Aug 207779015
27 Aug 207077.1428571428571020
28 Aug 207477.7142857142857014
29 Aug 207376.7142857142857011
30 Aug 209376.7142857142857015
31 Aug 206376014
1 Sep 207875.4285714285714022
2 Sep 207274.7142857142857123
3 Sep 208576.8571428571429014
4 Sep 20757708
5 Sep 208278.2857142857143214
6 Sep 207776113
7 Sep 207377.4285714285714117
8 Sep 2010681.4285714285714121
9 Sep 207782.1428571428571013
10 Sep 209082.8571428571429321
11 Sep 208283.8571428571429219
12 Sep 207883.2857142857143112
13 Sep 208684.5714285714286215
14 Sep 209687.8571428571429314
15 Sep 207082.7142857142857210
16 Sep 206781.2857142857143220
17 Sep 206077110
18 Sep 207776.2857142857143015
19 Sep 206674.571428571428608
20 Sep 206771.8571428571429012
21 Sep 206867.8571428571429212
22 Sep 208870.4285714285714410
23 Sep 206570.1428571428571020
24 Sep 207472.1428571428571217
25 Sep 206870.8571428571429210
26 Sep 207672.2857142857143213
27 Sep 209175.7142857142857024
28 Sep 2010280.5714285714286022
29 Sep 208079.4285714285714213
30 Sep 208882.7142857142857115
1 Oct 2010386.8571428571429428
2 Oct 208188.7142857142857111
3 Oct 208189.4285714285714116
4 Oct 208087.8571428571429310
5 Oct 208986221
6 Oct 207485.1428571428571117
7 Oct 208384.4285714285714119
8 Oct 208181.2857142857143417
9 Oct 208982.4285714285714518
10 Oct 208983.5714285714286518
11 Oct 208884.7142857142857221
12 Oct 207983.2857142857143521
13 Oct 207383.1428571428571423
14 Oct 208182.8571428571429210
15 Oct 209084.1428571428571320
16 Oct 209585722
17 Oct 207482.8571428571429414
18 Oct 209984.4285714285714427
19 Oct 208685.4285714285714415
20 Oct 209889327
21 Oct 208088.8571428571429515
22 Oct 208387.8571428571429620
23 Oct 2010188.7142857142857519
24 Oct 209291.2857142857143619
25 Oct 208188.7142857142857411
26 Oct 208889716
27 Oct 2010089.2857142857143420
28 Oct 207788.8571428571429813
29 Oct 208188.5714285714286520
30 Oct 2010589.1428571428571520
31 Oct 2010891.4285714285714422
1 Nov 207891425
2 Nov 208089.8571428571429721
3 Nov 206885.2857142857143611
4 Nov 207484.8571428571429317
5 Nov 209286.4285714285714918
6 Nov 208583.5714285714286620
7 Nov 208480.1428571428571930
8 Nov 208481915
9 Nov 208281.2857142857143224
10 Nov 2010586.5714285714286522
11 Nov 208287.7142857142857515
12 Nov 208486.5714285714286115
13 Nov 207885.5714285714286817
14 Nov 209286.7142857142857628
15 Nov 209588.28571428571431123
16 Nov 208488.57142857142861221
17 Nov 208886.1428571428571616
18 Nov 208085.8571428571429318
19 Nov 208385.7142857142857716
20 Nov 207685.4285714285714615
21 Nov 208183.8571428571429622
22 Nov 207881.4285714285714416
23 Nov 208181815
24 Nov 208380.2857142857143318
25 Nov 209382.1428571428571815
26 Nov 207280.5714285714286110
27 Nov 209883.71428571428571421
28 Nov 207282.4285714285714620
29 Nov 207582319
30 Nov 207581.1428571428571816
1 Dec 207780.2857142857143210
2 Dec 207677.8571428571429819
3 Dec 209180.5714285714286513
4 Dec 208779817
5 Dec 2010784327
6 Dec 209086.1428571428571414
7 Dec 208086.8571428571429714
8 Dec 208888.4285714285714718
9 Dec 209491518
10 Dec 208790.4285714285714315
11 Dec 208189.5714285714286714
12 Dec 208386.1428571428571614
13 Dec 208385.1428571428571018
14 Dec 208285.4285714285714516
15 Dec 208785.2857142857143219
16 Dec 208684.1428571428571415
17 Dec 208984.4285714285714917
18 Dec 2010087.1428571428571714
19 Dec 208287514
20 Dec 208887.7142857142857415
21 Dec 208488513
22 Dec 209088.42857142857141015
23 Dec 2097901421
24 Dec 208489.2857142857143416
25 Dec 208687.2857142857143615
26 Dec 209789.4285714285714729
27 Dec 209089.7142857142857720
28 Dec 2010492.57142857142861227
29 Dec 209793.5714285714286617
30 Dec 208091.1428571428571715
31 Dec 2011395.28571428571431716
1 Jan 219296.1428571428571912
2 Jan 218594.4285714285714820
3 Jan 21101961617
4 Jan 2110596.14285714285711821
5 Jan 2111698.85714285714291228
6 Jan 2196101.1428571428571925
7 Jan 21113101.1428571428571922
8 Jan 21114104.2857142857142427
9 Jan 21106107.2857142857143124
10 Jan 21139112.7142857142864135
11 Jan 21129116.1428571428573226
12 Jan 21139119.4285714285715228
13 Jan 21130124.2857142857145535
14 Jan 21127126.2857142857144532
15 Jan 21136129.4285714285715226
16 Jan 21137133.8571428571435928
17 Jan 21108129.4285714285714730
18 Jan 21136130.4285714285716630
19 Jan 211221285636
20 Jan 211511315337
21 Jan 21144133.4285714285716946
22 Jan 21151135.5714285714295737
23 Jan 21135135.2857142857144641
24 Jan 21136139.2857142857146745
25 Jan 21119136.8571428571435145
26 Jan 21167143.2857142857146744
27 Jan 21159144.4285714285717242
28 Jan 21161146.8571428571436254
29 Jan 21119142.2857142857145030
30 Jan 21115139.4285714285715237
31 Jan 21131138.7142857142865440
1 Feb 21161144.7142857142867439
2 Feb 21123138.4285714285715435
3 Feb 21136135.1428571428574938
4 Feb 211251303833
5 Feb 21123130.5714285714292728
6 Feb 211111304134
7 Feb 21111127.1428571428573527
8 Feb 21129122.5714285714294831
9 Feb 211261234236
10 Feb 21117120.2857142857142630
11 Feb 21125120.2857142857143430
12 Feb 21116119.2857142857142628
13 Feb 21114119.7142857142862630
14 Feb 21107119.1428571428572626
15 Feb 211211183032
16 Feb 21102114.5714285714292121
17 Feb 21126115.8571428571433038
18 Feb 21100112.2857142857141920
19 Feb 211141122719
20 Feb 2194109.1428571428571520
21 Feb 2195107.4285714285711917
22 Feb 2193103.4285714285711814
23 Feb 2194102.2857142857142214
24 Feb 219597.85714285714292724
25 Feb 218395.42857142857141114
26 Feb 2110193.57142857142861115
27 Feb 2110294.71428571428571020
28 Feb 2110395.8571428571429724
1 Mar 218995.28571428571431214
2 Mar 219795.71428571428571117
3 Mar 218594.2857142857143712
4 Mar 2110096.71428571428571323
5 Mar 218394.1428571428571515
6 Mar 219392.85714285714291114
7 Mar 217889.2857142857143716
8 Mar 218388.42857142857141111
9 Mar 2110088.85714285714291126
10 Mar 217988412
11 Mar 217884.8571428571429314
12 Mar 218384.8571428571429415
13 Mar 217281.8571428571429811
14 Mar 218783.1428571428571618
15 Mar 216881712
16 Mar 219380822
17 Mar 218480.7142857142857720
18 Mar 219182.5714285714286419
19 Mar 217982513
20 Mar 217882.8571428571429818
21 Mar 217881.5714285714286218
22 Mar 217582.5714285714286014
23 Mar 218781.7142857142857619
24 Mar 217780.7142857142857518
25 Mar 2110883.1428571428571825
26 Mar 219084.7142857142857615
27 Mar 217784.5714285714286513
28 Mar 217283.7142857142857412
29 Mar 218284.7142857142857420
30 Mar 219686616
31 Mar 219889615

Get the data: Measuring Mortality Using Public Data Sources 2019-2021 Table A (XLS 27KB)

Figure 1 shows daily analysis of RIP.ie death notices for the period 01 October 2019 to 31 March 2021, with a seven-day trailing average of death notices. Plotted alongside this are death notices which mention a HIQA registered older persons’ facility (further analysis below) as well as confirmed COVID-19 deaths2. Figure 1 clearly shows the significant rise in death notices in March to April 2020 and January to February 2021 in line with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Measuring Excess Mortality

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the challenges in obtaining timely statistics on mortality and, in particular, excess mortality (deaths over and above what would be expected under normal circumstances). Measuring the impact of such events on mortality trends can play an important role in policy and response efforts and in determining any additional impact on mortality related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects.

However, measurement of excess mortality is not straightforward. To most accurately measure excess mortality due to COVID-19 as part of this study, it would be necessary to clean and classify death notices on RIP.ie compared with the GRO for several previous years. Adjustments might be required for differing levels of expatriate usage, broadband penetration and controlling for potential changes in road traffic fatalities due to changes in vehicular activity and influenza deaths due to fewer personal interactions.

What is Excess Mortality and how is it measured in this report?

Excess mortality measures the number of deaths over and above what would be expected under normal circumstances. Expected deaths are measured by calculating the average number of deaths for the same period in previous years. To get excess mortality we compare the deaths (or in this case death notices) in one period with the average of previous periods. In that sense excess mortality is an estimate. 

In this release we look at a range of expected deaths (between one and three years prior) based on death notices published on RIP.ie. In some studies calculations of excess mortality look at an average of a greater number of years (e.g. a five year or 10-year average). Before 2017, the coverage of deaths on RIP.ie was not as comprehensive as in recent years and we observe that usage of RIP.ie steadily decreases as one moves backward in time. For this reason, if we were to use the RIP.ie data before 2017, it would increase the estimate of excess mortality for 2020/2021.

Annual deaths are increasing over the last decade due in part at least to an ageing population. It is important to differentiate between this natural demographic effect and the effect of the pandemic. This is another reason to look at more recent years to establish expected mortality.

It should also be noted that the calculation of mortality, including excess mortality, is based on deaths that occur in the Republic of Ireland. RIP.ie includes some deaths that occur in Northern Ireland and therefore these are removed.

What can estimates of excess mortality can tell us?

Estimates of excess mortality look at all causes of mortality during a period of observation, so the estimates of excess deaths are different to measurement of the number of deaths due to a particular cause (e.g. COVID-19 confirmed deaths). While COVID-19 confirmed deaths increased the level of excess mortality in the period, other causes may have had lower or higher impacts than in previous periods and none of these impacts can be disaggregated. Death notices, while having the advantage of timeliness, lack information on cause of death, and the age of the deceased, which is necessary to accurately profile mortality patterns over time.

COVID-19 confirmed deaths include people who died with and of COVID-19, which results in a different period total to all cause excess mortality, though the peak months are the same in both measures. Another difference between the two measures – i.e., excess deaths and deaths involving COVID-19 – is excess deaths can be negative, where deaths due to COVID-19 cannot be. For example, six months of 2020 had less death notices than 2019. These months were January, June, July, September, November and December. When considered individually, these months had negative excess deaths in 2020 when compared to 2019.

Figure 2 examines monthly mortality figures by calendar year, with observed RIP.ie data forming the basis for cases from October 2019 to March 2021 and the remaining data coming from CSO mortality figures (discussed below). While there are observable seasonal peaks, there is significant variance year on year. A clear increase can be seen in the level of death notices observed in April of 2020 which contrasts with observed dips in mortality levels in April of all previous years. A total of 3,503 death notices were recorded in April 2020, which is over 900 higher than the next highest number of deaths recorded in April in any of the previous five years (2,594 in April 2018).

2015201620172018201920202021
January2967311034253485303529493919
February2756268825322848261526403147
March2875284626042992268528642640
April247825332414259425043504
May253924892376238326522639
June224122662230228923852205
July216023012217233223262239
August228621822305224223072339
September233323332319229323862364
October252723972556248126272709
November231425122481252526962482
December265130102959265130522760

Get the data: PxStat VSD01 (monthly to 2018), PxStat VSA09 (annual to 2019)

The number of death notices decreased in the summer months of 2020 before beginning to rise again from September to December 2020, which is in line with the trends seen in previous years. Death notices in the first two months of 2021 show an increase compared with the same months in previous years. A total of 3,919 death notices were recorded in January this year, which is over 400 more than the next highest number of deaths recorded in January 2018 (3,485 in January 2018).

It is worth noting that there was no evidence of influenza viruses circulating in the community in Ireland during weeks 13 and 14 2021 (weeks ending 04/04/2021 and 11/04/2021) or during weeks 40 2020 to 12 2021. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) reported that "no influenza, RSV or acute respiratory infection (ARI - excluding COVID-19) outbreaks were notified to HPSC during the 2020/2021 season to date". The full surveillance report can be found on the HPSC website (PDF).

A simple method that has been used to calculate excess mortality gives a range of three different values. We calculate the death notices we would have expected to see during the period of March 2020 - February 2021 in the absence of the pandemic as:

  1. The same as the number of death notices in the previous year
  2. The average of the last 2 years
  3. The average of the last 3 years

The expected numbers of death notices are subtracted from the observed numbers to arrive at the excess mortality.

Analysis of death notices for the period March 2020 - February 2021 (11 March 2020 was the date of the first reported death due to COVID-19 in Ireland) provides a range of estimates for excess mortality between 2,034 and 2,338.

Observed death notices (RIP.ie, cleaned)Expected (3 year average)Expected (2 year average)Expected (previous year)
March28642682.333333333332749.52590
April35042498.666666666672566.52547
May2639248725262649
June22052298.6666666666723382369
July223923272386.52394
August2339232323392319
September23642331.333333333332348.52396
October27092593.333333333332586.52627
November248226162659.52696
December276028652853.53052
January39193162.666666666672984.52949
February31472678.333333333332616.52640
Show Table: Table 1 Cumulative Excess Death Notices, March 2020 - February 2021

Total Death Notices and COVID-19

!-- Measuring Mortality Using Public Data Sources - FB-MPDS2021 FIG5 Created: 2021/4/22 22:13 -->
RIP.ie death notices (cleaned)COVID-19 confirmed deaths
1 Mar 2088
2 Mar 20100
3 Mar 2088
4 Mar 2075
5 Mar 2091
6 Mar 2099
7 Mar 2088
8 Mar 2094
9 Mar 2074
10 Mar 2091
11 Mar 20991
12 Mar 20920
13 Mar 20820
14 Mar 20961
15 Mar 20830
16 Mar 20860
17 Mar 20900
18 Mar 20881
19 Mar 20901
20 Mar 20883
21 Mar 20945
22 Mar 20952
23 Mar 20986
24 Mar 20907
25 Mar 201159
26 Mar 2010516
27 Mar 20834
28 Mar 209214
29 Mar 209020
30 Mar 2010315
31 Mar 2011719
1 Apr 2010821
2 Apr 2010821
3 Apr 2012533
4 Apr 2014039
5 Apr 2012631
6 Apr 2010328
7 Apr 2015041
8 Apr 2012132
9 Apr 2012838
10 Apr 2011537
11 Apr 2013636
12 Apr 2014343
13 Apr 2011537
14 Apr 2013442
15 Apr 2013442
16 Apr 2012232
17 Apr 2013838
18 Apr 2010939
19 Apr 209328
20 Apr 2012631
21 Apr 2010435
22 Apr 2010029
23 Apr 2010430
24 Apr 2012042
25 Apr 208215
26 Apr 2011536
27 Apr 2011320
28 Apr 209619
29 Apr 209824
30 Apr 209826
1 May 209021
2 May 2010825
3 May 209122
4 May 209114
5 May 208523
6 May 2010623
7 May 209618
8 May 209417
9 May 209713
10 May 20789
11 May 207211
12 May 20756
13 May 209615
14 May 20937
15 May 209014
16 May 20858
17 May 208812
18 May 20869
19 May 20847
20 May 20704
21 May 20704
22 May 20693
23 May 20846
24 May 20805
25 May 20878
26 May 20857
27 May 20664
28 May 20757
29 May 20925
30 May 20835
31 May 20733
1 Jun 20863
2 Jun 20802
3 Jun 20685
4 Jun 20653
5 Jun 20703
6 Jun 20724
7 Jun 20756
8 Jun 20803
9 Jun 20752
10 Jun 20804
11 Jun 20551
12 Jun 20842
13 Jun 20711
14 Jun 20832
15 Jun 20882
16 Jun 20732
17 Jun 20532
18 Jun 20842
19 Jun 20850
20 Jun 20770
21 Jun 20542
22 Jun 20686
23 Jun 20701
24 Jun 20751
25 Jun 20672
26 Jun 20682
27 Jun 20731
28 Jun 20811
29 Jun 20792
30 Jun 20660
1 Jul 20700
2 Jul 20723
3 Jul 20691
4 Jul 20650
5 Jul 20561
6 Jul 20690
7 Jul 20782
8 Jul 20760
9 Jul 20660
10 Jul 20750
11 Jul 20750
12 Jul 20731
13 Jul 20831
14 Jul 20642
15 Jul 20840
16 Jul 20860
17 Jul 20841
18 Jul 20760
19 Jul 20780
20 Jul 20760
21 Jul 20751
22 Jul 20670
23 Jul 20731
24 Jul 20830
25 Jul 20740
26 Jul 20660
27 Jul 20700
28 Jul 20440
29 Jul 20661
30 Jul 20841
31 Jul 20620
1 Aug 20710
2 Aug 20760
3 Aug 20780
4 Aug 20670
5 Aug 20880
6 Aug 20750
7 Aug 20881
8 Aug 20641
9 Aug 20711
10 Aug 20750
11 Aug 20680
12 Aug 20760
13 Aug 20860
14 Aug 20721
15 Aug 20730
16 Aug 20760
17 Aug 20750
18 Aug 20740
19 Aug 20601
20 Aug 20830
21 Aug 20700
22 Aug 20800
23 Aug 20930
24 Aug 20681
25 Aug 20820
26 Aug 20770
27 Aug 20700
28 Aug 20740
29 Aug 20730
30 Aug 20930
31 Aug 20630
1 Sep 20780
2 Sep 20721
3 Sep 20850
4 Sep 20750
5 Sep 20822
6 Sep 20771
7 Sep 20731
8 Sep 201061
9 Sep 20770
10 Sep 20903
11 Sep 20822
12 Sep 20781
13 Sep 20862
14 Sep 20963
15 Sep 20702
16 Sep 20672
17 Sep 20601
18 Sep 20770
19 Sep 20660
20 Sep 20670
21 Sep 20682
22 Sep 20884
23 Sep 20650
24 Sep 20742
25 Sep 20682
26 Sep 20762
27 Sep 20910
28 Sep 201020
29 Sep 20802
30 Sep 20881
1 Oct 201034
2 Oct 20811
3 Oct 20811
4 Oct 20803
5 Oct 20892
6 Oct 20741
7 Oct 20831
8 Oct 20814
9 Oct 20895
10 Oct 20895
11 Oct 20882
12 Oct 20795
13 Oct 20734
14 Oct 20812
15 Oct 20903
16 Oct 20957
17 Oct 20744
18 Oct 20994
19 Oct 20864
20 Oct 20983
21 Oct 20805
22 Oct 20836
23 Oct 201015
24 Oct 20926
25 Oct 20814
26 Oct 20887
27 Oct 201004
28 Oct 20778
29 Oct 20815
30 Oct 201055
31 Oct 201084
1 Nov 20784
2 Nov 20807
3 Nov 20686
4 Nov 20743
5 Nov 20929
6 Nov 20856
7 Nov 20849
8 Nov 20849
9 Nov 20822
10 Nov 201055
11 Nov 20825
12 Nov 20841
13 Nov 20788
14 Nov 20926
15 Nov 209511
16 Nov 208412
17 Nov 20886
18 Nov 20803
19 Nov 20837
20 Nov 20766
21 Nov 20816
22 Nov 20784
23 Nov 20818
24 Nov 20833
25 Nov 20938
26 Nov 20721
27 Nov 209814
28 Nov 20726
29 Nov 20753
30 Nov 20758
1 Dec 20772
2 Dec 20768
3 Dec 20915
4 Dec 20878
5 Dec 201073
6 Dec 20904
7 Dec 20807
8 Dec 20887
9 Dec 20945
10 Dec 20873
11 Dec 20817
12 Dec 20836
13 Dec 20830
14 Dec 20825
15 Dec 20872
16 Dec 20864
17 Dec 20899
18 Dec 201007
19 Dec 20825
20 Dec 20884
21 Dec 20845
22 Dec 209010
23 Dec 209714
24 Dec 20844
25 Dec 20866
26 Dec 20977
27 Dec 20907
28 Dec 2010412
29 Dec 20976
30 Dec 20807
31 Dec 2011317
1 Jan 21929
2 Jan 21858
3 Jan 2110116
4 Jan 2110518
5 Jan 2111612
6 Jan 219619
7 Jan 2111319
8 Jan 2111424
9 Jan 2110631
10 Jan 2113941
11 Jan 2112932
12 Jan 2113952
13 Jan 2113055
14 Jan 2112745
15 Jan 2113652
16 Jan 2113759
17 Jan 2110847
18 Jan 2113666
19 Jan 2112256
20 Jan 2115153
21 Jan 2114469
22 Jan 2115157
23 Jan 2113546
24 Jan 2113667
25 Jan 2111951
26 Jan 2116767
27 Jan 2115972
28 Jan 2116162
29 Jan 2111950
30 Jan 2111552
31 Jan 2113154
1 Feb 2116174
2 Feb 2112354
3 Feb 2113649
4 Feb 2112538
5 Feb 2112327
6 Feb 2111141
7 Feb 2111135
8 Feb 2112948
9 Feb 2112642
10 Feb 2111726
11 Feb 2112534
12 Feb 2111626
13 Feb 2111426
14 Feb 2110726
15 Feb 2112130
16 Feb 2110221
17 Feb 2112630
18 Feb 2110019
19 Feb 2111427
20 Feb 219415
21 Feb 219519
22 Feb 219318
23 Feb 219422
24 Feb 219527
25 Feb 218311
26 Feb 2110111
27 Feb 2110210
28 Feb 211037
1 Mar 218912
2 Mar 219711
3 Mar 21857
4 Mar 2110013
5 Mar 21835
6 Mar 219311
7 Mar 21787
8 Mar 218311
9 Mar 2110011
10 Mar 21794
11 Mar 21783
12 Mar 21834
13 Mar 21728
14 Mar 21876
15 Mar 21687
16 Mar 21938
17 Mar 21847
18 Mar 21914
19 Mar 21795
20 Mar 21788
21 Mar 21782
22 Mar 21750
23 Mar 21876
24 Mar 21775
25 Mar 211088
26 Mar 21906
27 Mar 21775
28 Mar 21724
29 Mar 21824
30 Mar 21966
31 Mar 21986

The RIP.ie death notices for each day from 01 March 2020 to 31 March 2021 are shown in Figure 5, alongside the confirmed COVID-19 deaths2. A clear correlation can be observed between the increase in death notices and COVID-19 confirmed deaths.

Death Notices and Gender

The gender of the deceased was inferred from death notices using forenames, personal pronouns, possessive pronouns and relative terms such as ‘beloved mother of’ and ‘husband to’. For the period under investigation, 51.8% of death notices were for males while 48.2% were for females. Deaths reported by the CSO had a gender split of 51.1% male and 49.9% female for the years 2007 to 2017 inclusive. Of the 4,434 confirmed COVID-19 deaths4 for the months of March 2020 to March 2021, 53.2% were male, while 46.8% were female.

The changing structure of deaths by gender over the period October 2019 to March 2021 can be seen by clicking on a month below:



Show Table: Table 2 Deaths Notices by Gender, 2019-2021

Death Notices and Place of Death

The death notice often contains information about the place of death. For example, the death notice often indicates that the deceased died

  • suddenly, at home
  • in the tender loving care of the staff of a named nursing home
  • unexpectedly, under the care of the doctors and nurses of a named hospital
  • tragically, following an accident
  • peacefully, at a named hospice
  • on holiday, in a named foreign country
  • at home, in a named foreign country

From the information in the death notice it was possible to compile the place of death for more than 80% of cases. It was also possible to identify a death on holiday, an expatriate (emigrant) death and the death of a citizen of Northern Ireland. Care was taken for deaths around the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, as there are cases where it remains unclear which side of the border the deceased resided, despite the place of death. It appears possible that for those living close to the border, their funeral mass may be celebrated on one side, with burial on the other. Those dying on holiday have been classified as if they had died in Ireland, whereas Northern Ireland and expatriate deaths have been grouped together.

Often, the place of death was suggested or ambiguous, but not explicitly stated. For example, the deceased may have died 'surrounded by their loving family', without stating the setting. Another implication of the place of death was the suggestion of a donation to a named facility, e.g. hospice or community hospital patient comfort fund. However, these were often ambiguous, e.g. two or more donation recipients being suggested simultaneously. In the absence of an explicit place of death, notices were deemed to be other/unstated3.

HospitalHospiceHIQA-regulated Older Persons' FacilityAt HomeExpatriate / Northern IrelandOther / Unstated
Oct 2019770122642423197670
Nov 2019795121688450172642
Dec 2019937111763526174715
Jan 2020918124724495171688
Feb 2020778128687455150592
Mar 2020846121722496167679
Apr 2020831961237635276705
May 202070581674648192531
Jun 2020598101478569155459
Jul 202061599463558170504
Aug 2020646115499558181521
Sep 202068092457612192523
Oct 2020747114570662211616
Nov 2020722105559537208559
Dec 202081796525706244616
Jan 202112411061000793318779
Feb 202199389737697238631
Mar 202183393507643222564

Viewing the monthly relative percentages of death notice by place of death, one can see a few trends. As already stated, around 20% of all death notices were classified as “Other/Unclear/Unstated”. The relative percentage of death notices classified as “At Home” went from an average of 16% each month between October 2019 - April 2020 to 23% from May - December 2020. This then decreased in January 2021 before starting to gradually increase again in February and March 2021.

One other point worth noting is that the relative percentage of HIQA registered facilities for older people for April 2020 saw an increase of nearly 9% compared with previous months. This relative percentage gradually decreased in subsequent months before seeing a rise in January, then gradually decreasing again in February and March 2021.

HospitalHospiceHIQA-regulated Older Persons' FacilityAt HomeExpatriate / Northern IrelandOther / Unstated
Oct 201927.26628895184144.3201133144475922.733711048158614.97875354107656.9759206798866923.7252124645892
Nov 201927.71966527196654.2189679218967923.988842398884215.69037656903775.9972105997210622.3849372384937
Dec 201929.04525728456293.4407935523868623.651580905145716.30502169869815.3936763794172422.1636701797892
Jan 202029.42307692307693.9743589743589723.205128205128215.86538461538465.4807692307692322.0512820512821
Feb 202027.88530465949824.5878136200716824.623655913978516.30824372759865.3763440860215121.2186379928315
Mar 202027.91158033652263.9920818211811323.820521280105616.36423622566815.5097327614648622.4018475750577
Apr 202021.9841269841272.5396825396825432.724867724867716.79894179894187.301587301587318.6507936507937
May 202024.90286117979512.861179795125423.807841752031122.88943836100326.7820558106676118.7566231013776
Jun 202025.33898305084754.2796610169491520.254237288135624.11016949152546.5677966101694919.4491525423729
Jul 202025.52926525529274.1095890410958919.219593192195923.16313823163147.056870070568720.9215442092154
Aug 202025.63492063492064.5634920634920619.801587301587322.14285714285717.1825396825396820.6746031746032
Sep 202026.604068857593.5993740219092317.879499217527423.9436619718317.5117370892018820.4616588419405
Oct 202025.58219178082193.904109589041119.520547945205522.67123287671237.2260273972602721.0958904109589
Nov 202026.84014869888483.9033457249070620.780669144981419.96282527881047.7323420074349420.7806691449814
Dec 202027.19707057256993.1957390146471417.476697736351523.50199733688428.1225033288948120.5059920106525
Jan 202129.28959169223512.5017701203681823.601604909133818.71607269294317.5053103611045618.3856502242152
Feb 202129.33530280649932.6292466765140321.772525849335320.59084194977847.0310192023633718.6410635155096
Mar 202129.10552061495463.2494758909853217.714884696016822.46680642907067.7568134171907819.706498951782
Show Table: Table 3 Analysis of Place of Death Mentioned in Death Notice, 2019-2021

Death Notices and Older Persons' Facilities

It was also possible to derive information on deaths in facilities for older people, (e.g. 'in the care of the staff of named facility'), most of which are registered with the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA). HIQA's Older People's inspection team are legally responsible for the monitoring, inspection and registration of designated centres for older people, such as nursing homes, in Ireland4. This analysis focussed on mentions of HIQA-registered older persons' facilities5.

RIP.ie death notices (cleaned)Notices mentioning a HIQA registered older persons' facility
1 Oct 198624
2 Oct 197121
3 Oct 198722
4 Oct 198026
5 Oct 196912
6 Oct 198214
7 Oct 198518
8 Oct 197419
9 Oct 198917
10 Oct 198928
11 Oct 198724
12 Oct 198420
13 Oct 198818
14 Oct 198726
15 Oct 199225
16 Oct 198923
17 Oct 197317
18 Oct 197918
19 Oct 198924
20 Oct 198518
21 Oct 198123
22 Oct 199917
23 Oct 199824
24 Oct 19808
25 Oct 198922
26 Oct 197216
27 Oct 198519
28 Oct 199723
29 Oct 199132
30 Oct 199323
31 Oct 197721
1 Nov 1911627
2 Nov 197724
3 Nov 198617
4 Nov 198624
5 Nov 198527
6 Nov 197122
7 Nov 199118
8 Nov 198821
9 Nov 198823
10 Nov 198818
11 Nov 199827
12 Nov 198715
13 Nov 198923
14 Nov 1910722
15 Nov 197820
16 Nov 197722
17 Nov 198822
18 Nov 199326
19 Nov 198723
20 Nov 1911537
21 Nov 198515
22 Nov 1910332
23 Nov 199125
24 Nov 198021
25 Nov 199831
26 Nov 1910929
27 Nov 197917
28 Nov 199825
29 Nov 196815
30 Nov 199020
1 Dec 198716
2 Dec 198820
3 Dec 1910125
4 Dec 198225
5 Dec 199415
6 Dec 199025
7 Dec 199424
8 Dec 199020
9 Dec 198023
10 Dec 1910125
11 Dec 199327
12 Dec 1910734
13 Dec 198818
14 Dec 199823
15 Dec 1910721
16 Dec 1911233
17 Dec 1910628
18 Dec 1910426
19 Dec 199320
20 Dec 1910320
21 Dec 1910927
22 Dec 199825
23 Dec 199834
24 Dec 199926
25 Dec 198524
26 Dec 199121
27 Dec 1910829
28 Dec 1911232
29 Dec 1911622
30 Dec 1911029
31 Dec 1910826
1 Jan 209922
2 Jan 2010224
3 Jan 2010427
4 Jan 2010230
5 Jan 208421
6 Jan 209826
7 Jan 2010333
8 Jan 2010416
9 Jan 2010835
10 Jan 2011529
11 Jan 209022
12 Jan 2012230
13 Jan 2010927
14 Jan 208715
15 Jan 209423
16 Jan 209218
17 Jan 207716
18 Jan 209220
19 Jan 209617
20 Jan 207626
21 Jan 2010021
22 Jan 209320
23 Jan 208824
24 Jan 209727
25 Jan 208918
26 Jan 207811
27 Jan 208923
28 Jan 2010632
29 Jan 206514
30 Jan 2011433
31 Jan 207624
1 Feb 209530
2 Feb 209024
3 Feb 208725
4 Feb 208321
5 Feb 209417
6 Feb 207920
7 Feb 209225
8 Feb 209824
9 Feb 2010130
10 Feb 207926
11 Feb 209823
12 Feb 2010524
13 Feb 208821
14 Feb 2010932
15 Feb 209712
16 Feb 208525
17 Feb 209228
18 Feb 209219
19 Feb 209721
20 Feb 208725
21 Feb 208921
22 Feb 209335
23 Feb 207515
24 Feb 208924
25 Feb 209128
26 Feb 208522
27 Feb 2010028
28 Feb 208922
29 Feb 208120
1 Mar 208824
2 Mar 2010022
3 Mar 208827
4 Mar 207510
5 Mar 209122
6 Mar 209923
7 Mar 208821
8 Mar 209415
9 Mar 207415
10 Mar 209121
11 Mar 209921
12 Mar 209223
13 Mar 208222
14 Mar 209624
15 Mar 208323
16 Mar 208621
17 Mar 209019
18 Mar 208815
19 Mar 209028
20 Mar 208826
21 Mar 209431
22 Mar 209524
23 Mar 209832
24 Mar 209024
25 Mar 2011530
26 Mar 2010520
27 Mar 208326
28 Mar 209219
29 Mar 209026
30 Mar 2010326
31 Mar 2011742
1 Apr 2010822
2 Apr 2010824
3 Apr 2012526
4 Apr 2014045
5 Apr 2012648
6 Apr 2010327
7 Apr 2015057
8 Apr 2012141
9 Apr 2012857
10 Apr 2011546
11 Apr 2013662
12 Apr 2014356
13 Apr 2011547
14 Apr 2013447
15 Apr 2013443
16 Apr 2012244
17 Apr 2013865
18 Apr 2010952
19 Apr 209341
20 Apr 2012639
21 Apr 2010441
22 Apr 2010029
23 Apr 2010425
24 Apr 2012045
25 Apr 208225
26 Apr 2011537
27 Apr 2011339
28 Apr 209640
29 Apr 209834
30 Apr 209833
1 May 209035
2 May 2010840
3 May 209123
4 May 209131
5 May 208529
6 May 2010633
7 May 209622
8 May 209425
9 May 209719
10 May 207822
11 May 207220
12 May 207514
13 May 209625
14 May 209323
15 May 209016
16 May 208515
17 May 208824
18 May 208619
19 May 208419
20 May 207016
21 May 207022
22 May 206920
23 May 208429
24 May 208019
25 May 208720
26 May 208516
27 May 206617
28 May 207518
29 May 209215
30 May 208321
31 May 20737
1 Jun 208618
2 Jun 208018
3 Jun 206817
4 Jun 206512
5 Jun 207016
6 Jun 207215
7 Jun 207516
8 Jun 208019
9 Jun 207517
10 Jun 208022
11 Jun 205515
12 Jun 208426
13 Jun 207118
14 Jun 208313
15 Jun 208820
16 Jun 207314
17 Jun 205314
18 Jun 208422
19 Jun 208510
20 Jun 207712
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Figure 9 shows that there was a significant increase in the number of deaths notices in April 2020 for residents of HIQA registered facilities for older people, rising from 722 in March 2020 to 1,237 in April 2020. Similarly, there was also an increase in death notices at the start of 2021, rising from 527 in December 2020 to 1,001 in January 2021.

Methodological Notes

To calculate excess mortality, we subtract the number of death notices we would have expected to see in the absence of the pandemic from the number of death notices we observed. 

Observed Death Notices

Each death notice pertaining to a date of death between 01 October 2019 and 31 March 2021 (the period under investigation) was read, cleaned and classified. Cleaning involves removing:

  • Death notices pertaining to expatriate deaths
  • Death notices pertaining to Northern Irish citizens
  • Nulls – these are empty records which contain no information, a result of the web-scraping process
  • Duplicates, which are so rare as to be negligible

Expected Death Notices

Expected death notices are calculated as the death notices we would be have expected to see during the period of interest in the absence of the pandemic. We calculated expected death notices in three different ways:

  • The same as the number of death notices in the previous year
  • The average of the last 2 years
  • The average of the last 3 years

Excess Mortality and the Choice of Period of Interest

Our analysis covers the period beginning in March 2020, to account for the impact of Covid-19 as the first recorded death was 11 March 2020. We examined the periods March to June 2020 inclusive in our first release and March to September 2020 inclusive in our second.

For our period of interest in this release, we cover the months March 2020 to February 2021, which includes two peaks associated with COVID-19. It is preferable to avoid beginning a reference period around a peak of winter mortality where seasonality is observably established. Due to the novelty of this illness, it is not clear if there is a seasonal pattern of deaths associated with it or where it might peak. For example, Canada’s first peak of deaths attributed to COVID-19 occurred in May 2020 while Russia’s occurred in June 2020. To allow for this, we present three windows, noting that a period of interest cannot exceed 12 months.

1. We compare the period October 2019 to September 2020 inclusive with the same period in earlier years to remove the distortion brought about by winter mortality. This captures the effect of the first wave of deaths due to COVID-19 and incorporates the trough which followed it. 

2. In addition, now that 2020 has ended, we can show an estimate of deaths for 2020 for comparison with earlier calendar years, with the caveat described above. It should be further noted that the rise in deaths from one year to another is not automatically considered to be excess deaths. Indeed, the number of deaths annually, per calendar year, has followed an increasing trend since around 2010. Between 2010 and 2018, the average annual rise in the number of deaths was 397. The largest fall was 252, between 2013 and 2014. The largest rise was 875, between 2014 and 2015.

3. We continue the series released in July (March to June) and November (March to September) 2020, by showing a range of three values for excess mortality for the period beginning in March 2020 and ending in February 2021.

Table 4 Excess Mortality, 2019-2021
 3 year average2 year averagePrevious yearCOVID-19 Deaths1
October 2019 - September 20201,2088821,3261,551
January 2020 - December 20206372833512,060
March 2020 - February 20212,3382,2622,0344,317
1COVID-19 confirmed deaths.

Analysis of death notices for the period beginning October 2019 and ending September 2020 provides us with an excess mortality range of 882 - 1,326. Further analysis was carried out to estimate the excess mortality for the 12-month period January - December 2020 provides a range of 283 and 637. This helps demonstrate the difference in choosing a different time period and the impact that this has on excess mortality estimation.

Show Table: Table 5 Cumulative Excess Death Notices, October 2019 - September 2020

Show Table: Table 6 Cumulative Excess Death Notices, January - December 2020

It took considerable resources to read the more than 55,000 death notices for the 18-month period under investigation. It was not possible to repeat the process for the previous five years, so another method was used. The web address (or webpage or URL) of each death notice on rip.ie is constructed using an incremental number. As the landing page allows one to search and sort by date, it was possible to reference these incremental numbers against the death notice publication dates and determine an index. The results of this exercise are below. Furthermore, the proportion of Irish death notices has been determined by multiplying this figure by the 92.2% calculated earlier. This is first shown for the usual calendar year of January to December, for the years 2015 to 2019 inclusive. This allowed us to compare the results against a similar exercise carried out by HIQA in July. They used the same data, but a different method.

Table 7 Comparing Adjusted Data, 2015-2019
 RIP.ie Read-off IndexRIP.ie Read-off (* 92.2%)HIQA ReportDifference
201531,81829,33629,367-0.1%
201632,79830,24030,617-1.2%
201732,80230,24330,539-1.0%
201834,02731,37331,519-0.5%
201933,88731,24431,659-1.3%

While its application to earlier years assumes the distribution is uniform across time, the figure of 92.2% was arrived at through rigorously reading through every record for a 12-month period. As there was also an element of modelling to arrive at the independently calculated HIQA values, the values calculated in this method were considered to be acceptable. This exercise was repeated back to the beginning of October 2014 to align with the period under investigation.  

Comparison of Death Notices to Deaths by Occurrence

Deaths by Occurrence measure deaths by the date on which they occurred. Death notices were also analysed by date of death. At the time of writing, the CSO had published monthly deaths by occurrence up to and including December 2017. Furthermore, the CSO had published annual provisional deaths by occurrence for the calendar years 2018 and 2019. A monthly series of 24 months was constructed from the provisional annual data for 2018 and 2019, extending the monthly series of deaths from October 2014 to September 2019. The annual provisional figures were apportioned to months using death registrations with the General Register Office (by date of death) for the years 2018 and 2019. This was on the basis that this was the best indication available at the time of writing of a monthly distribution for the years 2018 and 2019. It is important to have an accurate monthly distribution as we are calculating an excess death notice figure for a period of months – in this case, the seven-month period March to September 2020.

Although the CSO deaths by occurrence are not being used to calculate excess mortality at this time, they are singular as an official benchmark to measure death notices against. As noted in the HIQA report, there is an undercount of death notices relative to deaths by date of occurrence the further one goes back in time. Reasons for this phenomenon may be explained by market penetration, regional variations, use of competing services, broadband usage and IT literacy. Other complexities ignored in this analysis are the different timing of the flu seasons in different countries and the mortality of expatriates, which could impact the proportion of expatriate death notices in different months. It is noted that the resulting expected death notices are lower than if we were to adjust for this undercount. Part of the discrepancy in 2018 and 2019 may be attributable to the fact that the annual data from which the months are derived, are provisional.

The ad hoc and experimental nature of this updated analysis is noted; however, death notices continue to competently track registrations, albeit with a mean lag of one day compared with a mean lag of 63 days for registrations.

For further COVID-19 related information go to the CSO COVID-19 Information Hub


Footnotes

1Registering a Death in Ireland

2The analysis of COVID-19 confirmed deaths by date does not include numbers for probable COVID-19 deaths (which are included in totals provided by the National Public Health Emergency Team). It was not possible to provide analysis of probable COVID-19 deaths by date. For full analysis of COVID-19 confirmed and probable deaths please see the COVID-19 Deaths and Case Statistics releases.

3Cases where the place of death was unclear or unstated have been combined with cases where the circumstances of death are potentially identifiable. These low-frequency instances include: 1) there were a small number of deaths at residential facilities for retirees of religious vocations that are not regulated by HIQA; 2) deaths due to accident; 3) deaths at residential facilities caring for people living with mental health issue.

4HIQA - Older People's Services

5Register of Older Person's Facilities (CSV download)