Provisional deaths and excess mortality in Canada dashboard

Provisional deaths and excess mortality in Canada

COVID-19 continues to affect communities and families in Canada. In terms of lives lost, the toll of the pandemic should account for both the direct and indirect effects of the virus. It is important to measure excess mortality to better understand the direct and indirect consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Excess mortality occurs when there are more deaths during a period of time than would be expected for that period. The number of excess deaths is measured as the difference between the number of observed deaths and the number of expected deaths over a certain period of time. The Canadian Vital Statistics Death (CVS-D) database is the authoritative source for cause of death data in Canada. The CVS-D is an administrative survey that collects demographic and medical information from all provincial and territorial vital statistics registries on all deaths in Canada.

What is represented on this dashboard?

This dashboard presents data that are relevant for monitoring the impacts of COVID-19 on mortality in Canada. The two interactive visualizations within the dashboard feature insights on the estimated number of weekly deaths and weekly death counts from the CVS-D. The data used in this dashboard are provisional, as some deaths which occurred during the reference period have not yet been reported. To address this issue, Statistics Canada has produced provisional death estimates which have been adjusted to account for the incomplete nature of the counts. Provisional deaths are not based on all deaths that occurred during a specific reference period because of reporting delays. The provisional death counts and estimates may not match figures from other sources, such as media reports, or counts and estimates from provincial and territorial health authorities and other agencies.

How to use this dashboard?

With these tools, data users can explore trends in excess mortality. These interactive tools allow users to examine excess deaths by comparing the adjusted estimates of weekly deaths to the expected number of weekly death counts. Comparing provisional death counts and death estimates over time can be useful for understanding trends in mortality. The quality of the weekly adjusted counts is dependent upon completeness of the death data reported to Statistics Canada. Only estimates for weeks where the level of completeness reaches 75% or more are shown. The level of completeness reaches 90% or more for almost all weeks, with a few exceptions. More information on these exceptions can be found in the footnotes for table 13-10-0784-01.

Provisional weekly death counts

Exploring the trends: Provisional weekly death count insights

Excess mortality, which accounts for the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic, occurs when there are more deaths during a period of time than would be expected for that period. One way to consider whether there is excess mortality is to compare the number of deaths being observed with previous years.

Recent key insight: Changing impacts on age groups

Since the onset of the pandemic, older Canadians have experienced a disproportionate share of both excess deaths and COVID-19-caused deaths. From March 2020 to early March 2021, about one third of the excess mortality and just over half of the deaths caused by COVID-19 observed in Canada involved individuals older than 84. In the first period of excess mortality, there were over 4,000 excess deaths among this older population, with a similar number of deaths caused by COVID-19. In the second period of excess mortality, the gap between these two numbers widened, with roughly 3,700 excess deaths and about 5,500 COVID-19-caused deaths, according to the provisional data. The higher number of COVID-19 deaths may be attributable to the disease taking a heavy toll on some individuals who may have been at a high risk of dying over this period of time, regardless of the pandemic. In addition, the indirect effects of the pandemic, possibly resulting in decreases in the number of deaths attributable to other causes, could also be at play.

Recent key insight: National trends

Nationally, periods of significant excess mortality have been observed from March 2020 to June 2020; from October 2020 to February 2021; and from August 2021 to November 2021. Canada experienced a new period of significant excess mortality starting in January 2022, when Omicron was the dominant variant. Excess deaths were observed across all age groups but were relatively higher among those younger than 45 and among men, particularly in the western provinces.

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Data

The data used to create this interactive web application is from the following listed data tables:

Table 13-10-0768-01 Weekly death counts, by age group and sex

Provisional weekly estimates of the number of deaths, expected number of deaths and excess mortality

Exploring the trends: Provisional death estimate insights

The number of excess deaths is measured as the difference between the number of observed deaths and the number of expected deaths over a certain period of time. Using excess mortality insights to assess the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic can help to understand when there are more deaths during a period of time than would be expected for that period.

To account for pre-pandemic trends in mortality, including the effects of a growing and aging population, Statistics Canada is using an approach that has been adopted by other countries to estimate expected deaths. There are a number of ways to measure excess mortality and each method has challenges, including how to properly estimate the number of expected deaths that would occur in a non-COVID-19 context compared to the current death counts. It should be noted that, even without a pandemic, there is always some variation in the number of people who die in a given week. This means that the number of expected deaths should fall within a certain range of values.

Beyond deaths attributed to the disease itself, the pandemic could also have indirect consequences that increase or decrease the number of deaths as a result of various factors, including delayed medical procedures, increased substance use, or declines in deaths attributable to other causes, such as influenza.

Recent key insight: National trends

Nationally, periods of significant excess mortality have been observed from March 2020 to June 2020; from October 2020 to February 2021; and from August 2021 to November 2021. Canada experienced a new period of significant excess mortality starting in January 2022, when Omicron was the dominant variant. Excess deaths were observed across various regions of the country, including Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.

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Data

The data used to create this interactive web application is from the following data table:

Table 13-10-0784-01 Adjusted number of deaths, expected number of deaths and estimates of excess mortality, by week

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