COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death in the United States between March 2020 and October 2021, according to a study of national death certificate data conducted by the National Cancer Institute. The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine on July 5.
COVID-19 was responsible for 1 in every 8 fatalities (or 350,000 deaths) in the country throughout the 20-month study period.
The leading cause of death was heart disease, followed by cancer, accounting for a total of 1.29 million fatalities.
Accidents and strokes ranked fourth and fifth, respectively.
COVID-19 responsible for more deaths in older age groups
COVID-19 was among the top five causes of mortality in every age group of 15 and older over this time period.
When the authors looked at fatalities in 2020 (March–December) and 2021 (January–October), they discovered COVID-19 was the fourth and fifth major cause of death among adults aged 45–54 and 35–44, respectively, in 2020.
The virus became the primary and second-leading cause of mortality in these age categories in 2021.
COVID-19 was the second leading cause of death among people aged 85 and older in 2020, but it dropped to third in 2021 because more people in this age group got vaccinated.
The indirect impact of COVID-19 on mortality
In addition, the pandemic has had an indirect impact on other causes of mortality in the United States. Statistics suggest mortality from other causes – such as heart disease, accidents, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes – rose between 2019 and 2020, potentially due to individuals being hesitant to seek medical care for fear of contracting COVID-19.
According to experts, more effects of the pandemic on other causes of mortality may emerge in the coming years. For example, the pandemic stopped many individuals from having routine cancer screenings, which might lead to an increase in cancer mortality in the future.