As 2020 came to an end, many of us were celebrating what we hoped would be the better year ahead. These were the days before a last-ditch effort to overthrow the U.S. government and install a permanent Trump dictatorship, remember, and COVID vaccines in the world and a new president inbound, the last thing we wanted to do was confront the daunting morbidity of 2020.
In mid-December, we got our first glimpses of it, though. Preliminary data suggested that deaths in the U.S. had spiked 12% in 2020 over the previous year. When the dust settled, it was even worse. 2.8 million Americans died in the U.S. between March 1, 2020 and January 2, 2021, 23% higher than 2019. In terms of absolute numbers, it was the deadliest year in American history.
There are a lot of factors at play. A study released March 4 notes that COVID-19 mortality correlates with a country’s obesity rates, but countries where the majority of the population are overweight – like the United States and United Kingdom – may have other factors, like lack of a consistent government response, which is a critically important tool in addressing the pandemic. And the findings, released by the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggest that the U.S. experienced a rise in mortality unrelated to COVID and possibly instead related to other factors worth keeping an eye on: dementia, diabetes, and heart disease deaths rose in 2020 over 2019, too.