Never in Spain have more than 12,000 people died in a week … until now. At the peak of mortality of the coronavirus epidemic – between March 23 and April 12 – more than 18,000 people died from all causes in Spain a week for 21 consecutive days. The death toll registered is the highest in 45 years of democratic history.
An epidemic that has once again shown its effects on overmortality since the beginning of September. Although the records returned to speak of more deaths than expected in July and August, not all were directly attributable to COVID-19: a large part was linked to traditional summer heat episodes. However, all the data (including official deaths recorded by Health) indicate that the excess of more than 32,000 deaths registered since the end of September is largely linked to the virus, directly or indirectly. Of this excess mortality, 17,000 come from the second wave (September to November) and the remaining 15,000 from the third wave (December to February).
Precisely, between January and December of last year there was an excess of 68,000 deaths above those expected in Spain. With these data, 2020 would be the deadliest year in the democratic history of Spain both in absolute numbers and adjusting for population, according to calculations made by elDiario.es.
This graph shows the result of elDiario.es’s analysis of the individual microdata of the more than 15 million deaths registered in Spain -from 1975 to 2019- in the death statistics of the National Institute of Statistics (INE) and the surveillance figures daily -2020 and 2021- of the Mortality Monitoring System (MoMo), of the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII). See methodology.
It must be taken into account that the mortality figures during the epidemic are underestimated with respect to the definitive death statistics because they only include computerized civil registries –93% of the population– and there may be delays in the notification of deaths.
Even with that, the death figures already reflect the highest mortality spike in recent history even adjusting the data by population.
How does the coronavirus epidemic compare to other spikes in mortality compared to recent years? We analyze this by comparing the figures for 2020 and 2021 with the daily deaths from the worst flu outbreaks of the last two decades: 2005, 2012 and 2017. Select the first or last quarter to see the first or last 4 months of those years.
The most affected communities
The differences in the impact of mortality from the coronavirus crisis are palpable between autonomous communities. Madrid, Castilla y León and Castilla-La Mancha and Catalunya were the regions most affected by the increase in deaths during the first wave of the epidemic.
They are also the areas in which the virus has acted with the greatest virulence, according to the data published by the Ministry of Health. The peaks are clear: in the Community of Madrid, deaths in the deadliest week of the epidemic quadrupled compared to the average of the last 20 years.
An increase in mortality that reached its peak in the months of March and April, during home confinement, but which has been repeated, with less intensity, in the second wave of the coronavirus. Even so, in some communities the excess mortality since September already exceeds the figures recorded during home confinement. These are the cases of Andalusia, Murcia, Galicia, Aragon, Asturias, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands.
It must be taken into account that in some territories, such as Aragon, Cantabria, Castilla y León or La Rioja, the death figures are more underestimated than in the rest of the regions because they have fewer computerized records, so the peaks may still be greater. In 2018, for example, the MoMo only registered 77% of the deaths that were registered in the provinces of Castilla-La Mancha compared to 99% in the Basque Country.
The following graph shows the comparison of the number of weekly deaths in each community with the deaths registered in the last 20 years.
If you want to compare the detailed mortality data from 1975 to the present in each autonomous community, click here.
The collapse of hospitals, funeral homes and civil registries is part of an unprecedented situation in the history of Spain. The 20 days with the highest number of deaths since the beginning of democracy are all between the end of March and the beginning of April 2020, according to the deaths registered in the MoMo system.
To date, the day with the highest number of deaths had been January 13, 2017 – flu outbreak – with 1,759 deaths. On March 31 of last year, almost 3,000 people died in a single day.
The peak of deaths, among older people
By age, the biggest difference between the deaths expected according to the MoMo and those officially registered is among the oldest people. The excess of deaths among the deceased with more than 74 years is already 63% over what was expected until April 28. Between 65 and 74 years, 46%.
Many experts ask for time to find out what part of the excess mortality is attributable to the virus. In addition, the excess deaths recorded by the MoMo may also be some that are not directly attributable to COVID-19. For example, indirect deaths may have increased during the saturation of the health system and other accidental deaths may have decreased during the exceptional situation of confinement.
Mortality in each Autonomous Community since 1975
To compare in more detail how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting each autonomous community, we show the evolution of weekly deaths in each region from 1975 to the present.
The figures show the total number of deaths in each week of the year registered in each autonomous community, according to the figures of the historical death statistics until 2019 and the MoMo project for 2020 and 2021. Select a community and explore the data.
For this information, the individual microdata of all deaths registered in Spain between 1975 and 2019 from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) have been analyzed. For each death, the day of death and the death registration community have been identified.
1,298 deaths have been identified located on non-existent days (November 31 or February 30) between 1975 and 1983. These deaths have been included among those on the last day of those months.
The death statistics registered in Spain from January 2020 to the present come from the mortality monitoring system (MoMo), which has published historical data for the last two years. This tool is used to warn of excess deaths from heat waves or flu epidemics.
These figures are underestimated since the system feeds on deaths registered in the computerized civil registries (94% of final deaths) and may present delays in notifications.
Communities with fewer computerized vital records can detect far fewer than actually occurred. These are the cases of Aragon (it detected 80% of the deaths finally registered in 2018), Cantabria (78%), Castilla y León (77%), Comunidad de Madrid (87%) and La Rioja (77%).