Republic of Ireland news

Four in five Covid deaths in Republic had at least three medical conditions on death record

Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Four in five deaths from Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland had at least three medical conditions mentioned on the death record, according to figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Death certificates listed 4.2 conditions on average per person who died from Covid-19, it said.

In the deaths that occurred between March 2020 and February 2022, Covid-19 was identified as the Underlying Cause of Death (UCOD) in 5,384 cases.

Explaining this terminology, the CSO said that a death certificate can list multiple medical conditions of a deceased person, based on which, the UCOD is identified by applying World Health Organisation guidelines.

When Covid-19 is identified as the UCOD, it is classified as a death ‘due to’ Covid-19, which differs from when it is just one of a number of conditions listed for those who died, in which case it is classified as a death ‘with’ Covid-19.

The CSO figures released today show that the largest number of accompanying conditions of Covid-19 deaths were diseases of the respiratory system, which were reported in 5,279 (or 98%) of Covid-19 deaths.

The second largest number of accompanying conditions in Covid-19 deaths were diseases of the circulatory system which were reported in 4,259 (or 79%) of Covid-19 deaths.

Pneumonia was certified as a condition in 3,023 (or 56%) of Covid-19 deaths.

Chronic lower respiratory diseases were stated on 948 (or 18%) death certificates, with 714 (or 13%) having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Covid-19 was the underlying cause of death in 2.3% of all deaths involving cancer of the bronchus or lung, in 3% of all deaths where breast cancer was reported, and in almost 6% of all deaths which mentioned prostate cancer as a condition suffered by the deceased person.

Looking at the data by age, 91% of Covid-19 deaths occurred in persons aged 65 and over; 75% in persons aged 75 and over; and 42% in persons aged 85 and over.

Slightly more males died due to Covid-19 in this timeframe than females (53% compared to 47%).

Gerard Doolan, CSO statistician in the vital statistics division, said: “It is worth noting that as a single death certificate can contain multiple accompanying medical conditions, the figures of deaths by condition do not represent the actual number of deaths from Covid-19.

“Also, a death due to Covid-19 differs from a death with Covid-19, in that Covid-19 is identified as the main UCOD in those who died due to Covid-19, while it is one of a number of conditions listed in deaths certified as a death with Covid-19.

“The highest individual medical conditions reported on death certificates were pneumonia with 3,023 (or 56%) Covid-19 deaths, dementia with 1,041 (or 19%) such deaths, and chronic lower respiratory diseases with 948 (or 18%) such deaths.”

These CSO figures are provisional, and based on deaths notified to the General Register Office and subsequently notified to the CSO.

The CSO has said that an UCOD refers to the “disease or injury that initiated the train of morbid events leading directly to death”, according to World Health Organisation guidelines.

The CSO has defined a Covid-19 death as a death “resulting from a clinically compatible illness in a probable or confirmed Covid-19 case, unless there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be related to Covid-19 disease (e.g. trauma)”.

“There should be no period of complete recovery between the illness and death.”

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