The number of deaths in 2020 is also slightly inflated because it includes a “leap week”, with 53 weeks of data, while most years have 52, because of how New Year fell.
The current excess death figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have also been overestimating mortality, according to the Institute of the Faculty of Actuaries (IoFA) which has been monitoring the data in its Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI).
They estimate that the ONS figures exaggerated deaths last year by around 15,000 because they fail to account for the growing and ageing population. The CMI claims the real excess figure is closer to 72,900.
The CMI team is made up of the heads of demographics and longevity at the likes of Lloyds Banking Group, Legal & General and Bupa, so their businesses depend on getting the figures right.
Yet, the CMI does accept that there has been an alarming annual increase between 2019 and 2020 the likes of which has not been seen for nearly a hundred years. “This is by far the highest annual increase in recent years, and the largest annual increase since 1929,” said Cobus Daneel, chair of the CMI mortality projections committee.
The scale of the rise in deaths in 2020 is also significant, alarming and notable, mainly because mortality rates have fallen significantly in recent decades, as a result of health interventions such as statins, fewer people smoking, and better medical care.
The 696,330 deaths registered up to January 1, 2021 was 15 per cent higher than the previous five-year average (605,576) and is beaten only by two years since 1887.
In 1940, the second year of the Second World War, 16.8 per cent more deaths (673,253) were recorded than the average of the previous five years (576,303).