Mortality

Provisional mortality figures indicate moderate increase in 2021

Population
Provisional mortality figures indicate moderate increase in 2021

Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, publishes an overview of the provisional mortality figures for the year 2021, for all causes of death. The publication contains provisional mortality figures for all Belgian municipalities, and a first analysis of the mortality by age category, gender and by month in 2021. Sciensano also publishes today a more detailed analysis, specifically on excess mortality in 2021 compared to the expected mortality according to the Be-MOMO model. In 2022, Statbel will continue to update the mortality figures weekly on Fridays.

This publication compares the mortality figures of 2021 with the average mortality figures of the period 2017-2019. In addition, we also compare the mortality figures between the Covid years 2020 and 2021. The population structure is not taken into account in this publication. Further scientific research must show the impact of the population structure on the mortality figures[1].

Mortality increases by 2.5% compared to the average for 2017-2019

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Belgian mortality figures seems to be a lot less in 2021 than in 2020. In 2021, just under 112,500 deaths were provisionally recorded. This is about 14,500 fewer deaths than in 2020, the first Covid year. Compared to the average in the pre-Covid period 2017-2019, a moderate increase of about 2,700 (2.5%) deaths was seen in 2021. This increase is a lot smaller than last year. In 2020 an increase of about 17,000 (15.7%) deaths was observed.

Mortality in the Brussels-Capital Region lower than the average for 2017-2019

Behind the general mortality figures, there are rather limited regional differences. If we compare the provisional figures for 2021 with the average for 2017-2019, we see an increase of about 3% in the Flemish Region and the Walloon Region. In the Brussels-Capital Region, there is a decrease of -1.2% compared to the average.

However, in 2020, the Brussels-Capital Region had the sharpest relative increase in the number of deaths of all the regions, or a 22.7% increase compared to the period 2017-2019. When comparing the average number of deaths in the Covid years 2020 and 2021 with the pre-Covid years 2017-2019, an increase of 9.1% in the number of deaths was seen in Belgium. In the Flemish Region, the increase of 7.9% was slightly lower than in the Walloon Region and Brussels-Capital Region where it was 10.7%.

Evolution of mortality from 2017 to 2021 (in %)

  2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 Excess mortality 2020 compared to 2017-2019 (in %) Excess mortality 2021 compared to 2017-2019 (in %) Excess mortality 2020-2021 compared to 2017-2019 (in %)
Belgium 109,629 110,645 108,745 126,850 112,390 +15.7% +2.5% +9.1%
Flemish Region 62,530 63,397 62,420 70,919 64,515 +13.0% +2.8% +7.9%
Walloon Region 38,068 38,329 37,409 44,947 39,029 +18.5% +2.9% +10.7%
Brussels-Capital Region 9,031 8,919 8,916 10,984 8,846 +22.7% -1.2% +10.7%

Evolution of mortality per province and capital from 2017 to 2021

Province Average mortality 2017-2019 Mortality 2021 Excess mortality 2021 compared to 2017-2019 (in %)
Brussels-Capital Region 8,955 8,846 -1.2%
Province of Antwerp 17,270 17,569 +1.7%
Province of Flemish Brabant 10,392 10,456 +0.6%
Province of Walloon Brabant 3,564 3,669 +2.9%
Province of West Flanders 12,889 13,470 +4.5%
Province of East Flanders 14,562 14,819 +1.8%
Province of Hainaut 14,840 15,371 +3.6%
Province of Liège 11,696 11,843 +1.3%
Province of Limburg 7,670 8,201 +6.9%
Province of Luxembourg 2,716 2,886 +6.3%
Province of Namur 5,120 5,260 +2.7%
Capital province Average mortality 2017-2019 Mortality 2021 Excess mortality 2021 compared to 2017-2019 (in %)
Brussels 1,196 1,182 -1.2%
Antwerp 4,900 4,702 -4.0%
Leuven 827 789 -4.6%
Wavre 351 366 +4.3%
Bruges 1,333 1,386 +4.0%
Ghent 2,311 2,284 -1.2%
Mons 1,010 1,011 +0.1%
Liège 2,142 2,117 -1.2%
Hasselt 762 826 +8.4%
Arlon 224 254 +13.4%
Namur 1,221 1,244 +1.9%

Mortality increases among men

In the preliminary mortality figures for 2021, we see an increase in the number of deaths in men (+5.8%) while the number in women decreases slightly (-0.7%) compared to the average for 2017-2019. This is while in the year 2020 the mortality figures in both men and women had increased evenly against the same average: around 15.5% in both groups.

In terms of age groups, the 65-74 year olds were particularly affected in 2021 (+11.2%) compared to the average for 2017-2019. The impact on the other age groups was smaller in 2021, with the over-85s even seeing a return to the pre-Covid period in terms of the number of deaths.

In 2020, the older age groups were hit especially hard compared to the same average. The over-85s (20.8%) were in the lead, followed by the 75-84 year olds (+15.5%) and the 65-74 year olds (+15.2%). For the younger age groups, there was little or no impact.

Evolution of mortality by age group from 2017 to 2021

  2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 Excess mortality 2020 compared to 2017-2019 (in %) Excess mortality 2021 compared to 2017-2019 (in %)
1-24 years* 621 567 531 515 565 -10.1% -1.4%
25-44 years 2,259 2,192 2,129 2,175 2,334 -0.8% +6.4%
45-64 years 13,681 13,639 13,139 13,950 13,469 +3.4% -0.1%
65-74 years 17,208 17,615 17,690 20,170 19,470 +15.2% +11.2%
75-84 years 29,575 29,334 28,244 33,562 30,054 +15.5% +3.5%
85+ years 45,858 46,857 46,586 56,106 46,301 +20.8% -0.3%
* The registration of the number of deaths in 2021 among persons below the age of 1 year is still too incomplete to be able to compare mortality rates correctly in the 0-24 age group, hence the choice to limit the age group to 1-24 year olds.

Fourth wave in particular causes moderate increase

Comparing deaths by month shows that a similar number of deaths was recorded in the period January up to and including September 2021 as in the same months in the reference period 2017-2019. A moderate decrease in mortality in February and March was compensated by a slightly higher mortality especially in April and May.

In October 2021, the number of deaths seemed for the first time to be really higher than the average of the previous years (+11.4%). Then in November (+17.6%) and December (+14.3%), too, the number of deaths was significantly above average. So it seems that it was mainly the fourth Covid wave that caused a moderate increase of 2.7% in the number of deaths compared to the reference period.

Evolution of mortality per month from 2017 to 2021

  2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 Excess mortality 2020 compared to 2017-2019 (in %) Excess mortality 2021 compared to 2017-2019 (in %)
January 11,828 10,360 10,468 10,217 10,753 -6.1% -1.2%
February 10,516 10,089 9,766 9,387 8,979 -7.3% -11.3%
March 9,419 12,202 9,998 11,586 9,373 +9.9% -11.1%
April 8,459 8,971 8,901 15,449 9,509 +76.0% +8.3%
May 9,097 8,559 8,829 9,449 9,212 +7.0% +4.3%
June 8,221 7,793 8,276 7,992 8,156 -1.3% +0.7%
July 8,227 8,918 8,755 8,004 8,464 -7.3% -2.0%
August 8,236 8,499 8,242 9,847 8,266 +18.3% -0.7%
September 8,108 8,044 8,003 8,189 8,312 +1.7% +3.2%
October 8,769 8,666 8,888 10,752 9,773 +22.5% +11.4%
November 8,638 8,729 8,867 14,035 10,288 +60.5% +17.6%
December 10,111 9,815 9,752 11,943 11,305 +20.7% +14.3%

Situation in historical data

Statbel disposes of historical data with mortality rates per year since 1841 and per month since 1919. In the historical dataset, gross mortality rates can be compared, among other things. This is calculated as the ratio of the number of deaths to the total population. This gross mortality rate usually has a decreasing trend. This trend was interrupted by the Covid pandemic (2020 and 2021). Of the 181 years observed since 1841, 2021, with a gross mortality rate of 9.8 per mille, ranks 171st, which is much better than the 147th place of 2020 with 11.0 per mille. It is important to note that the 10 years (rank 172 to 181) that had a lower gross mortality rate than 2021 are all in the last 15 years. So the downward trend in the gross mortality rate does not seem to have fully recovered.


[1] The best known example is the age distribution. This is subject to change over the years and therefore has an impact on the number of deaths in the population.

Table
Content

Mortality rates, per sex and region, 2000 - 2021

Year Belgium Brussels-Capital Region Flemish Region Walloon Region
Men Woman Total Men Woman Total Men Woman Total Men Woman Total
2000 10.4 10.0 10.2 10.2 11.0 10.6 10.0 9.4 9.7 11.4 10.9 11.1
2005 10.0 9.7 9.9 9.1 10.0 9.6 9.6 9.2 9.4 10.9 10.6 10.8
2010 9.7 9.6 9.6 8.3 8.7 8.5 9.5 9.2 9.3 10.7 10.4 10.6
2011 9.5 9.4 9.5 7.4 8.6 8.0 9.4 9.0 9.2 10.4 10.5 10.5
2012 9.9 9.8 9.9 7.9 9.0 8.5 9.8 9.4 9.6 10.8 10.7 10.8
2013 9.9 9.8 9.8 7.7 8.5 8.1 9.8 9.4 9.6 10.6 10.8 10.7
2014 9.4 9.3 9.4 7.5 7.9 7.7 9.3 9.0 9.2 10.2 10.4 10.3
2015 9.7 10.0 9.8 7.5 8.2 7.9 9.6 9.7 9.6 10.6 11.0 10.8
2016 9.6 9.5 9.6 7.4 7.8 7.6 9.5 9.3 9.4 10.5 10.6 10.6
2017 9.6 9.7 9.7 7.4 7.7 7.6 9.6 9.5 9.6 10.4 10.6 10.5
2018 9.7 9.8 9.7 7.0 7.8 7.4 9.7 9.7 9.7 10.5 10.7 10.5
2019 9.4 9.6 9.5 7.0 7.7 7.4 9.5 9.5 9.5 10.2 10.3 10.3
2020 11.0 11.1 11.0 8.8 9.2 9.0 10.7 10.7 10.7 12.3 12.4 12.3
2021* 10.0 9.5 9.8 7.3 7.2 7.3 10.0 9.4 9.7 10.9 10.5 10.7
Crude death rate: ratio, expressed in per mille, between the number of deaths and the average population of the year.
Based on the data from the national register and in accordance with the national definition of the population.
* The figure for 2021 is provisional and is based on the extraction from the National Register on 15/01/2022. (Final figures will be published in June 2022).
Visually
Content

Purpose and brief description

General mortality statistics are compiled on the basis of data from the National Register of Natural Persons (RNPP). They make it possible to consolidate the statistics on causes of death, the source of which is the civil status forms. This statistic breaks down the deaths of people residing in Belgium according to sex, municipality of residence (district, province and region), month of death, civil status and nationality (Belgian or foreign). They also make it possible to calculate the gross mortality rate, i.e. the ratio between the number of deaths during the year and the population in the middle of that year.

Population

Inhabitants in Belgium

Periodicity

Annually

Release calendar

Results available 9 months after the reference period

Definitions

Age: Age is measured in completed years on 1 January.

Month of death: Month of death from the date of death

Mortality rate: Gross mortality rate (ratio between the number of deaths and the average population figure of the specified year)

Gender: Gender of the deceased

Nationality: Nationality (Belgian or foreign) of the deceased (on 1 January of the specified year).

Civil status: Civil status of the deceased

Metadata

Mortality.pdf