Blogger Alexander Lapshin wrote a post on his Facebook page on March 23, referring to the death rate from coronavirus in Italy. Lapshin wrote that in 2019, 579,000 people died in Italy, i.e. 1,586 people per day. In 2020, 127,000 people died in Italy, including the coronavirus deaths. That’s 1,588 people per day. “In other words, last year, without any coronavirus, as many people died in Italy as in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic” Lapshin wrote.
The Fact Investigation Platform has followed in the footsteps of Lapshin’s statement to find out whether the death rate in Italy is really so high, and what effect the coronavirus has on that dynamic.
Source of Lapshin’s information
In the Facebook post, Lapshin used the data from Countrymeters.info website. This site actively registers the population numbers of states, referring to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. However, the website contains no information on the authors, and the UN department they cite does not provide daily or more frequently updated data.
Studying Italian sources, we found no information on deaths in the country in 2020, with the exception of cases of coronavirus. However, even if we compare the data published on the site with official Italian sources, we reveal a number of inconsistencies. The problem is that the data on the website is quite scarce compared to official data.
What official sources say
The official website of the Italian Statistical Institute (istat.it) reports the number of deaths in the country in 2019, which is higher than the source cited by Lapshin by about 100,000. Thus, 647 thousand people died in Italy in 2019 and not 579 thousand. Moreover, more than 185,000 people died in Italy in the first three months of last year. The number of deaths in March alone was about 58,000. 59,876 people died in the country in February and 68,000 in January.
The population of Italy as of January 1, 2020 is 60 million. It is noteworthy that istat.it has no data on deaths recorded in 2020.
Thus, we can state that the figures presented by blogger Lapshin on the mortality rate in Italy do not correspond to the official statistics of that country, so the conclusions made by the blogger are also questionable. It will be possible to talk about the death rate in Italy in 2020 compared to 2019 only after official data have been published.
What is the situation with mortality in Italy and which groups mostly die of coronavirus
In 2018, 633 thousand people died in Italy. In 2017 the number of deaths was 649 thousand, in 2016 – about 25 thousand less. Parallel with the high mortality rate in the country, the birth rate is declining, which has put Italy in a demographic crisis. In 2019, Italy’s natural population increase was the lowest since 1918.
On the other hand, Italy is considered an aging country. As of 2017, at least one in five Italians, or about 23 percent of the population, is over 65 years old. It is estimated that by 2050 one in three will be over 65 years of age. Almost half of Italians over the age of 65 have a chronic illness.
According to the WHO Report for 2019, the leading cause of deaths in Italy in recent years are coronary heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.
About one third of all deaths in Italy in 2017 were linked to risk factors caused by human habits (diet, smoking, alcohol use, limited physical activity). In 2017, about 98,000 people in Italy died from problems caused by their dietary habits. About 90,000 people die from active and passive smoking annually, and 26,000 from alcohol abuse.
According to the WHO, the low level of antimicrobial resistance is also a serious problem in Italy’s health care system. This has a direct impact on the number of deaths from viral diseases. According to the WHO, the Italian authorities are allocating more money every year to solve this problem. This is one of the reasons that the death rate from coronavirus in Italy is 5%, which is quite higher than the world average of 3-4%.
Health statistics during the virus
According to the Italian health authority, the overwhelming majority of people who have died from coronavirus had other illnesses. Diseases that aggravate a person’s condition and increase their risk of dying from a coronavirus infection are called pre-existing conditions. Thus, 30% of recorded deaths were attributed to coronary heart disease, 22% to atrial fibrillation, and the majority of deaths (73% ) to arterial hypertension. Almost half of those who died had 3 or more other diseases, the mortality rate among those with no pre-existing condition is 1.2 percent.
Therefore, judging by the numbers and underlying causes of deaths in epidemic and normal situations, we can conclude that the coronavirus has become an accelerating factor in diseases, but how much mortality rates in 2020 will differ from previous years can only be ascertained after the statistics is published.