COVID-19: third leading cause of death in France in 2020, while other major causes of death decline

N° 1250

Published on 2023-07-18

Diane Naouri (DREES), Anne Fouillet (Santé publique France), Walid Ghosn (Inserm-CépiDc), Élise Coudin (Inserm-CépiDc)
In 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak resulted in 69,000 deaths in France (10.4% of deaths), making it the third leading cause of death for that year. Just over half of the COVID-19 victims were 85 years old or above, with men who died of COVID-19 being younger, on average, than women. The most common causes of death in 2020 were still tumours (25.6%) and cardiovascular diseases (20.2%). However, the number of deaths from these two disease groups is lower than in previous years, which could be explained, in part, by the fact that some vulnerable people with chronic conditions who would have died due to these illnesses during the year ultimately died from COVID-19 (competitive effect).

Furthermore, the measures taken to limit the impact of the pandemic (lockdown, wearing of masks, social distancing) were undoubtedly responsible for the decline in mortality found for respiratory diseases, infectious diseases and road accidents.

In 2020, no cause of death increased as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19, so the overall excess mortality observed in 2020 (47,000 more deaths than expected) was lower than the number of deaths that were a direct result of COVID-19.

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