Nevin Manimala Statistics

Descriptive study of causes of death and COVID-19-associated morbidities from the New York City electronic death record: first wave of the pandemic March-July 2020

BMJ Open. 2024 Apr 3;14(4):e072441. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2023-072441.


OBJECTIVE: Assessing excess deaths from benchmarks across causes of death during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and identifying morbidities most frequently mentioned alongside COVID-19 deaths in the death record.

METHODS: Descriptive study of death records between 11 March 2020 and 27 July 2020, from the New York City Bureau of Vital Statistics. Mortality counts and percentages were compared with the average for the same calendar period of the previous 2 years. Distributions of morbidities from among forty categories of conditions were generated citywide and by sex, race/ethnicity and four age groups. Causes of death were assumed to follow Poisson processes for Z-score construction.

RESULTS: Within the study period, 46 563 all-cause deaths were reported; 132.9% higher than the average for the same period of the previous 2 years (19 989). Of those 46 563 records, 19 789 (42.5%) report COVID-19 as underlying cause of death. COVID-19 was the most prevalent cause across all demographics, with respiratory conditions (prominently pneumonia), hypertension and diabetes frequently mentioned morbidities. Black non-Hispanics had greater proportions of mentions of pneumonia, hypertension, and diabetes. Hispanics had the largest proportion of COVID-19 deaths (52.9%). Non-COVID-19 excess deaths relative to the previous 2-year averages were widely reported.

CONCLUSION: Mortality directly due to COVID-19 was accompanied by significant increases across most other causes from their reference averages, potentially suggesting a sizable COVID-19 death undercount. Indirect effects due to COVID-19 may partially account for some increases, but findings are hardly dispositive. Unavailability of vaccines for the time period precludes any impact over excess deaths. Respiratory and cardiometabolic-related conditions were most frequently reported among COVID-19 deaths across demographic characteristics.

PMID:38569678 | DOI:10.1136/bmjopen-2023-072441

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