02 FEBRUARY 2021

Circulatory system diseases were the cause of half of the deaths

According to the preliminary data of the Estonian Causes of Death Registry in National Institute for Health Development (NIHD), 15,643 people died in Estonia in 2020, of whom 7,406 were men and 8,237 were women.

As in previous years, the leading cause of death was diseases of the circulatory system (7,687), followed by malignant neoplasms (3,636) and injuries and poisoning (955). Diseases of digestive system (759) and respiratory system (710) followed.

COVID-19, a disease caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, caused the deaths of 201 people, 96 of whom were men and 105 women. The highest number of deaths due to COVID-19 was in the age group of 75 years and older (152). As there are more women than men in the older age groups, this explains the higher number of COVID-19 deaths among women. There were 19 deaths in the under-65 age group and 30 in the 65-74 age group. The highest number of COVID-19 deaths per month was in December (89).

NIHD participates in research projects analysing international mortality data. Mathematical analysis methods developed in the framework of Euro-MOMO can be used to estimate the change in mortality due to weather conditions (hot and cold waves) and seasonal outbreaks and that have been used to estimate both influenza and COVID-19-related excess mortality. According to Euro-MOMO data, mortality in Estonia at the end of 2020 was somewhat higher than expected, but the increase was not large compared to several Western European countries, such as Belgium, Great Britain, Portugal and Spain.

The data on the causes of death in 2020 are preliminary, they will be specified, and the final data of the previous year will be published by the Estonian Causes of Death Registry on 3 May 2021.

How the data on causes of death is collected and determined?

The notification of the cause of death is completed by a physician. The NIHD Estonian Causes of Death Registry requests data on causes of death electronically from the Health Information System every working day. The underlying cause of death is selected based on the information collected in the registry according to WHO guidelines. The underlying cause of death may change if the physician has additional information that becomes available later (e.g. histology, toxicology, microbiological tests, etc.). A new cause of death notification document is then sent to the Health Information System. In some cases, the registry also makes inquiries to physicians if the document does not contain sufficient information to select the underlying cause of death. After collecting the initial data, registry also compares them with other databases.

COVID-19 is chosen for the underlying cause of death if the physician who determined the cause of death reported it or the pneumonia caused by it as a fatal condition. The number of COVID-19 deaths in NIHD Estonian Causes of Death Registry is lower than the number of COVID-19 positive deaths from the Estonian Health Board, as the Board publishes the deaths data of people who had COVID-19 test positive before determining the underlying cause of death.

The total number of deaths, which also reflect the deaths of Estonians abroad, is published and analysed by Statistics Estonia. Different rates are used to estimate changes and differences in mortality, considering the sex and age composition of the population and the total population.

The absolute number of deaths is suitable for short-term statistics, but conclusions can only be drawn by comparing the rates.

Statistics in the database: Preliminary data of causes of death by sex and month