5.5% more deaths in 2022
In 2022, 116,380 deaths were recorded in Belgium. That is 4,089 more deaths than in the previous year, or a 3.6% increase compared to 2021. Compared to a broader reference period, namely the average for 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021, this is an increase of 5.5%. The increase is the most visible in the Flemish and Walloon regions, and among women and people over 85 years old. A higher than usual number of deaths was especially observed in April, in the summer and in December. This is what emerges from the figures of Statbel, the Belgian statistical office.
This publication compares the number of deaths in 2022 with the number of deaths in 2021 and the average number of deaths in the period 2017-2018-2019-2021. In this reference period, the year 2020 was excluded because the coronavirus pandemic in that year had a major impact on the number of deaths. Further scientific research should reveal the impact of the population structure on the number of deaths[i].
Deaths increase by 5.5% compared to the average for 2017-2018-2019-2021
With 116,380 deaths in 2022, there is a 3.6% increase compared to 2021. But a comparison with a wider reference period is more interesting. The number of deaths fluctuates from year to year due to various factors, such as the intensity of the flu season, the measured summer temperatures or air pollution. The average for the years 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021 is 110,328 deaths. Even if we compare with that average, the number of deaths in 2022 is high: 6,052 extra deaths, or an increase of 5.5%.
Increase mainly in the Flemish and Walloon regions
Behind the increase in the number of deaths in Belgium are regional differences. For the broader reference period (2017-2018-2019-2021), we see an increase in the number of deaths in 2022: +6.8% in the Flemish Region and +4.6% in the Walloon Region. In the Brussels-Capital Region, the number of deaths remained almost the same as this broader average (-0.2%).
Compared to 2021, in 2022 the number of deaths increased by 0.7% in Brussels, by 2.6% in Wallonia and by 4.7% in Flanders.
It is possible that the difference in the population structure between the regions plays a role. For example, on 01/01/2022, Flanders had the highest proportion of people over 65 (20.9%), followed by Wallonia (19.3%) and Brussels (13.1%). More in-depth analyses are needed to clarify the effect of differences in the population structure[i].
Mortality increases among women and people over 85
The number of deaths among women increased by 6.5% in 2022, compared to the average for the years 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021. The number of deaths among men also increased, by 4.5% Compared to 2021 only, there is a strong increase among women (+7.1%) and the number of deaths among men remained almost the same (+0.3%).
At age level, we see the biggest impact among those over 85, and increases from the age of 65 onwards. Compared to the average for 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021, in 2022, the number of deaths among people over 85 increased by +9.6%, among 75-84-year-olds by +3.2% and among 65-74-year-olds by +6.2%.
Compared to 2021, an increase is mainly seen among people over 85 in Belgium in 2022 (+9.8%). For the other age groups, there are no major differences in terms of the number of deaths between 2021 and 2022. This probably partly explains why the number of deaths among women increased more than among men in 2022. Indeed, 66.3% of people over 85 on 01/01/2022 were women.
Especially higher mortality in April, in the summer and in December
If we compare mortality by month, we see specific periods with higher mortality than usual: April, the summer months, especially August, and December. The causes are most likely diverse.
In April 2022, a peak in the number of deaths was noticed for the first time (+15.2% compared to the 2017-2018-2019-2021 period). The peak could be explained by both a slightly higher number of deaths due to the coronavirus, and the flu[i].
In addition, the summer months, especially August, were also characterised by a higher number of deaths than expected. June, July and August saw +7.6%, +4.8% and +10.6% deaths, respectively, than in the 2017-2018-2019-2021 period. The summer of 2022 was exceptionally hot and the air quality was not always so good. Sciensano noted significant excess mortality last summer, the highest of the last 20 summers[ii][iiI].
Finally, a higher number of deaths was also seen in December 2022 than in the 2017-2018-2019-2021 period (+16.2%). Again, there is no unequivocal explanation and it would be a combination of several factors. The number of deaths due to the coronavirus was rather limited, but in addition, the flu and the RSV viruses were also circulating. Finally, we also experienced a cold snap with poorer air quality in December[ii].
The final results on causes of death will be studied to better understand the causes of the increased mortality in the different periods.
Situation in historical data
Statbel has historical data with the number of deaths per year since 1841 and per month since 1919. With the historical dataset, we can also compare gross mortality rates. These are calculated as the ratio of the number of deaths to the total population. The gross mortality rate generally shows a downward trend. This trend was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Of the 182 years observed since 1841, 2022 ranks 165th with a gross mortality rate of 10.0 per mille. This is a lot better than the 147th place of 2020, year marked by the Covid pandemic, with 11.0 per mille, but slightly worse than the 172nd place of 2021 with 9.7 per mille. It is important to note that the 17 years (places 166 to 182) that registered a gross mortality rate lower than 2021 are all in this century.
[i] 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.
Mortality rates, per sex and region, 2000 - 2022
|Year||Belgium||Brussels-Capital Region||Flemish Region||Walloon Region|
|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.
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.
Inhabitants in Belgium
Results available 9 months after the reference period
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