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Top Charts 20-05: US 2020 cumulative deaths

In this regular column, Club Vita’s longevity experts will help you visualize the often abstract world of longevity risk by introducing some of their favorite charts.


How does the number of deaths occurring in the US in 2020 compare to previous years?

Answer: The tragedy of the COVID19 pandemic is playing out in the numbers reported daily on major news channels. Some states have been hit harder than others and the effect has been felt across the country. Many states have already seen the number of deaths far outstrip previous records for this point of the year. The majority of states have seen higher deaths than the 5 year average (and we seriously question the data available for some states where this is not the case).

The charts below show the cumulative weekly deaths in four different states for each year from 2015, relative to the average over 2015 to 2019, based on recently released CDC data. Note that the aging US population means we would expect the number of deaths to increase each year, all else being equal.

Source: Club Vita analysis of data up to 19 April 2020, from the National Center for Health Statistics at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (downloaded 8 May 2020)

Key takeaways
  • States such as New Jersey and Michigan have been badly hit by the pandemic, with 2020 recording the worst year for deaths in recent history.
  • States such as California have seen more deaths in 2020 than the five-year average but have not yet reach the levels of 2018
  • Reliable data is not yet available for the whole of the US, with data either missing or suspicious for many states (as demonstrated by the data shown for Ohio).
The key questions are:
  • Where will 2020 end up?
  • Is the pandemic a one-off event, or a new annual occurrence (like seasonal flu)?
  • How should we allow for this year of data in models of future longevity?

What do you think? Please post your questions in our Friends of Club Vita discussion group on LinkedIn.

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