COVID-19 Reported as Third Leading Cause of Death in 2020 in the U.S.
Federal health researchers report the study from the past year.
- By Shereen Hashem
- Apr 02, 2021
Following heart disease and cancer, COVID-19 was officially the third leading cause of death in 2020. This displaced unintentional injuries as the usual third place spot, federal health researchers reported. Coronavirus took 345,323 lives of Americans solely last year.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in about 30,000 additional cases, death certificates cited COVID-19, however, it wasn’t considered the cause of death. In addition to COVID-19, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s also claimed higher numbers in deaths, known as excess deaths.
“There’s a substantial number of excess deaths, beyond what we would have expected in a normal year,” said Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the N.C.H.S. and a senior author of two reports published by the CDC. While deaths from heart disease and other illnesses should have increased slightly because of the aging of the population, “this is way up and beyond what we would expect,” Dr. Anderson added.
In a second report issued Wednesday, Dr. Anderson said he and his colleagues determined throughout 378,000 death certificates that claimed to be the source of unrelated causes, such as heart attacks, they found that coronavirus was an underlying factor in the majority of cases.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, people were claiming deaths were simply being attributed to Covid when people were dying of other causes,” Dr. Anderson said. “We show that’s not the case.”
The researchers’ examination also shows that conditions on death certificates, like pneumonia or respiratory failure, were also consistent with those who died of COVID-19, according to doctors.
The disease’s death rates were highest among men. The most common subcategory is elderly people aged 85 and older.
Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.