Deaths

Deaths decrease by 0.7% in 2023 compared to the average for 2018-2019-2021-2022

Population
Deaths decrease by 0.7% in 2023 compared to the average for 2018-2019-2021-2022

In 2023, 111,255 deaths were recorded in Belgium. That is 5,125 fewer deaths than the previous year, or a 4.4% decrease compared to 2022. Compared to a broader reference period, namely the average for 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022, this is a slight decrease of 0.7%. The decline is visible in the Brussels-Capital Region and the Walloon Region, and is observed among all age groups except those over 85. This is what emerges from the figures of Statbel, the Belgian statistical office.

This publication compares the number of deaths in 2023 with the number of deaths in 2022 and the average number of deaths in the period 2018-2019-2021-2022. 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 [1].

 

Deaths decrease by 0.7% comared to the average for 2018-2019-2021-2022

With 111,255 deaths in 2023, there is a 4.4% decrease compared to 2022. 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 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022 is 112,015 deaths. Even if we compare with that average, the number of deaths in 2023 is somewhat lower: 760 fewer deaths, or a decrease of 0.7%.

Decrease in the Brussels-Capital Region and in the Walloon Region; stagnation in the Flemish Region

Behind the decrease in the number of deaths in Belgium are regional differences. For the broader reference period (2018-2019-2021-2022), we see a slight decrease in the number of deaths in 2023 (-0.7%). The decrease is most pronounced in the Brussels-Capital Region (-3.6%) and is also visible in the Walloon Region (-1.7%). In the Flemish region, there was no decrease, but rather a stagnation in the number of deaths (+0.3%).

Compared to 2022, in 2023 the number of deaths decreased by 3.7% in Brussels, by 4.2% in Flanders and by 4.8% in Wallonia.

It is possible that the difference in the population structure between the regions plays a role. For example, on 01/01/2023, Flanders had the highest proportion of people over 85 (3.3%), followed by Wallonia (2.6%) and Brussels (2.1%). More in-depth analyses are needed to clarify the effect of the differences in the population structure [1].

The number of deaths in 2023 only increases among people over 85, compared to the period 2018-2019-2021-2022

The number of deaths among women stagnates (-0.3%) in 2023, compared to the average for the years 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022. The number of deaths among men decreased by 1.1% If we compare with 2022 only, there is a sharp decrease in the number of deaths, both among women (-4.8%) and men (-4.0%).

At the age group level, we only see an increase in the number of deaths among people over 85. Compared to the average for 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022, the number of death among people over 85 increased by 2.1% in 2023. In all other age groups, we see a decrease: -10.2% among 0-24-year-olds, -3.4% among 25-44-year-olds, -7,1% among 45-64-year-olds, -2.2% among 65-74-year-olds and -0.8% among 75-84-year-olds.

The changing population structure most likely plays an important role in the increase in the number of deaths observed only among those over 85 in 2023. The number of people aged over 85 has been on the rise for quite a few years. Between 01/01/2018 and 01/01/2013, there was an increase of 6.8% in the number of people over 85. This at least partly explains why, despite the overall decline in 2023, the number of deaths is rising among the over-85s. More in-depth analyses are needed to clarify the effect of the changing population structure on the number of deaths per age [1].

Especially lower mortality in spring and high summer

If we compare mortality by month, 2023 shows specific periods with a lower number of deaths than usual: February to April and the summer months of July and August. Somewhat more deaths than usual were recorded in January and, to a lesser extent, in June and September. The causes are likely diverse.

December 2022 was marked by an above-average number of deaths due to an interaction of several factors, including the higher circulation of the flu and RSV viruses [2] These factors probably also had their impact on the number of deaths in January 2023, which was slightly above expectations.

This was followed by a spring in which the number of deaths was somewhat lower than average.

June and September were characterised by slightly higher temperatures, which is also reflected in the number of deaths being slightly above average in both months. During the summer months of July and August, temperatures were somewhat lower than in past summers, which translates into a somewhat lower number of deaths in these months.

Finally, the number of deaths in the months of October, November and December was around the average for the period 2018-2019-2021-2022.

The final results on causes of death will be studied to better understand the causes of the 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 183 years observed since 1841, 2023 ranks 182nd with a gross mortality rate of 9.5 per mille. This is a lot better than the 147th place of 2020, year marked by the Covid pandemic, with 11.0 per mille, and also a lot better than the 165th place of 2022 with 10.0 per mille. Only one year had a lower gross mortality rate than 2023, namely 2014. Possible explanations for the low gross mortality rate in 2023 are the small number of public health risk factors (meteorological and other environmental factors) and the harvesting effect. The harvesting effect is a decrease in the number of deaths, due to early deaths of vulnerable people during the COVID-19 epidemic.


[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.

[2] RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) is the main cause of respiratory infections among babies under 1 year old.

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