The death toll from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has been unparalleled due to both the high number of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections and the seriousness of the disease.
Researchers from the artificial intelligence software company nference report that the deaths due to COVID-19 over the last 12 months are higher than motor vehicle accidents for people over 40 years old.
The study, which appeared on the pre-print server medRxiv*, presented mortality rates and case-fatality rates for COVID-19 compared with other historic leading causes of death in the United States.
Mortality rates for leading causes of death in the United States stratified by age group. Comparison of causes of death per 100k people in a given age group, across all age groups. To better visualize mortality rates in the low-mortality age groups (ages 0 - 39), we have added a zoomed-in insert.
Over the 15 months, the coronavirus disease has caused widespread infections across 192 countries and territories. Of the 138 million-plus cases worldwide, over 2.97 million people have already died, while many others are still fighting for their lives.
In the United States, the country has reported the highest number of infections reaching over 31.4 million and bringing over 564,000 deaths to date. This is more than all of the deaths of American soldiers from the Vietnam War, Korean War, and World War II combined.
The disease burden of the ongoing pandemic has been unequal, with most deaths affecting the elderly and people with underlying health conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and chronic respiratory illness. Also, increased mortality rates have been reported among socioeconomically disadvantaged populations and racial minorities.
Case fatality rates for leading causes of death in the United States stratified by age group. Case fatality rate (CFR) per age group for COVID-19 (red), motor vehicle accidents (black), pancreatic cancer (purple), prostate cancer (grey), breast cancer (orange), lung cancer (cyan), leukemia (green), and the 2018-2019 flu (blue, horizontal dashed lines). Vertical bars show 95% confidence intervals, and the shaded region is a visual guide to indicate CFR values lower than COVID-19 CFR, per age group. Datapoints are not shown if a cause of death has a mortality of less than 0.1 deaths/100k individuals within an age group. Flu data is shown as horizontal lines due to flu data being stratified in different age groups16 than the other data shown. This data shows that for individuals in the age groups 40-49 years old and older, contracting COVID-19 results in a higher CFR than getting involved in a motor vehicle accident.
Mortality rates and case fatality rates for COVID-19
In the study, the researchers presented the mortality rates and case-fatality rates for COVID-19 over the past year, compared with other historic leading causes of death in the U.S.
To arrive at the study findings, the researchers assessed the health risks and disease burden for COVID-19 and other leading causes of death in the country over the past year, including cancer, flu, heart disease, suicide, homicide, and motor vehicle accidents.
Population data was collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, while the nationwide COVID-19 data was obtained from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) public use surveillance data. The team made sure to use cases and deaths between March 15, 2020, and March 14, 2021.
The researchers computed the relative risks for each of the non-COVID-19 causes of death compared with COVID-19. For every age group, the team presented risks of COVID-19, which can provide a good point of reference for COVID-19 danger.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the third leading cause of death for people 40 years old and above, with an overall annual mortality rate of 325 deaths per 100,000 people, behind only cancer, which caused 385 deaths per 100,000 individuals. The leading cause of death is still heart disease, having a mortality rate of 412 deaths per 100,000 individuals.
Further, the case fatality for COVID-19 for individuals more than 40 years old is more than the case fatality rate for motor vehicle accidents. For instance, the case fatality rate of people between the ages of 40 and 49 is 1.5 fold that of a motor vehicle accident. This means that COVID-19 is far more dangerous than a car crash for this group of people.
But for the age group of 20 to 29 years old, motor vehicle accidents have a 4.5 fold greater relative case fatality rate compared with COVID-19.
The study results underline the COVID-19 pandemic's severity, particularly for people over 40 years old. It also highlights the need for widespread implementation of public health measures to control the virus's spread. Vaccination efforts are also crucial to prevent severe illness not only for the elderly and those with comorbidities but also for those who are over 40 years old.
"It would be interesting to replicate this analysis on data from developing countries which may have significantly different leading causes of death and mortality rates for COVID-19 and other risk categories," the team added.
medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.
- Puranik, A., Niesen, M., Lindemer, E., Lenehen, P., Cristea-Platon, T., Pawlowski, C., and Soundararajan, V. (2021). Case fatality rates for COVID-19 are higher than case fatality rates for motor vehicle accidents for individuals over 40 years of age. medRxiv. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.04.09.21255193v1