select search filters
roundups & rapid reactions
before the headlines
Fiona fox's blog

expert reaction to study looking at what the COVID-19 pandemic did to death rates in adults in the first wave in the UK

A study published in PLOS Medicine looks at factors associated with excess all-cause mortality in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK.


Dr Simon Clarke, Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology, University of Reading, said:

“These data show that everyone’s risk of dying, whatever the cause, increased by a similar amount during the first flush of the pandemic.  While for some people, this extra risk will have come from the risk of catching Covid-19 itself, others will have died in greater numbers due to other reasons influenced by the pandemic and its impact on their health.

“The researchers are looking at all causes of death, rather than just deaths of people with Covid-19.  But people should be careful not to over-interpret this data as evidence that other specific factors, such as the national lockdown, was responsible.  This study makes it clear that while all people across the UK faced a higher risk of dying than before, they do not attribute blame to any particular factor.  For example, while this period of the pandemic led to a national lockdown, with people told to stay at home, it would be wrong to say that the lockdown itself caused an increase in deaths.  There are many other factors that will have contributed to the increased risk of death across the population, which are likely to have still been factors even if there had been no nationally imposed lockdown.  In fact, many of these factors – such as stress, exposure to other diseases, lack of access to healthcare – may have been much worse had there not been a lockdown.”


Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, Chair, Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge, said:

“It’s good to have confirmation that the risks from Covid have been roughly proportional to the individual risks we all face in life – it serves to exaggerate any weaknesses we have.

“As the authors say, even if we all have a similar relative risk, the vulnerable start from a higher baseline and so have had a higher absolute risk of dying.  For reasons that are not entirely clear, this virus picks on the weak and vulnerable.  It is a bully.”



‘Factors associated with excess all-cause mortality in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK: A time series analysis using the Clinical Practice Research Datalink’ by Helen Strongman et al. was published in PLOS Medicine at 19:00 UK time on Thursday 6 January 2022.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003870



All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:



Declared interests

None received.

in this section

filter RoundUps by year

search by tag