The mortality rate in Norway during the COVID-19 pandemic has been low compared to other countries, including neighbouring country Sweden.
The mortality rate in Norway during the COVID-19 pandemic has been low compared to other countries, including neighbouring country Sweden.

90 per cent of those who died with COVID-19 in Norway also had a chronic disease

More than half of them had cardiovascular diseases, according to preliminary numbers from the first three months of the pandemic.

In the period March until May there are a total of 236 registered COVID-19 associated deaths in Norway, a country with a population of just above 5,4 million people.

91 per cent of the deceased – 215 people – had other chronic illnesses, most commonly cardiovascular diseases.

“To put it simply, we can say that for these 215 deaths, COVID19 is considered to be the most important factor that lead to death. But we cannot say anything about how much other causes of death may have contributed to the outcome”, says chief physician Marianne Sørlie Strøm in a press release.

She works at the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry at the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH).

Facts about COVID-19 deaths in Norway

Here’s what we know about the 236 registered COVID-19 related deaths in the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry from March-May 2020:

  • COVID-19 is registered as the underlying cause of death in 91 per cent of the cases.
  • Nine out of ten are additionally registered as having a chronic disease
  • Cardiovascular disease is the most commonly registered chronic disease on the death certificates
  • Almost nine out of ten of the deceased are people above the age of 70 years
  • Most of the deaths occurred in the largest Norwegian municipalities like Oslo, Viken and Vestland
  • Only four per cent of the deaths occurred outside of a health service facility

Besides cardiovascular disease, 35 per cent had a chronic lung disease, 28 per cent had dementia, 12 per cent had diabetes and 11 per cent had cancer.

“Also for many of the COVID-19 associated deaths for those under 70 years old there are chronic diseases registered. The exception being dementia and cancer, diseases that largely affect the eldest”, says Sørlie Strøm.

These preliminary numbers may change as the cause of more deaths are registered.

Fewer deaths for other reasons

The numbers from the first three months of the pandemic in Norway show no increase in deaths compared to previous years. The numbers of deaths in May are lower than would have been expected when comparing with previous years.

“Nothing points in the direction of excess mortality in the population during the first three months of the pandemic”, says Sørlie Strøm.

There are registered fewer deaths from cardiovascular diseases and lung related illnesses compared to previous years.

There are also registered fewer substance related deaths in these three months.

And finally, there are not registered any more suicides than normal. The preliminary numbers in fact are slightly lower than previous years.

Research Kim Stene-Larsen from the National Institute for Public Health in Norway points out that the numbers will rise as more information is reported.

So far 92 per cent of the deaths in March-May are registered with a cause.

“It’s too early to say if there have in fact been fewer suicides in this period, but our estimates indicate that there has not been more suicide than expected”, he says.

Related: Norway’s mortality rate during the coronavirus pandemic is probably lower than usual

New measures in place

As per the publication of this article, the number of COVID-19 related deaths in Norway are 267.

Numbers of infected are on the rise in some parts of the country, and new measures have recently been put in place to ensure social distancing, such as recommendations of increased use of face masks and no larger private gatherings than ten people. Bars and restaurants are not permitted to sell alcohol past midnight.

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