Not more deaths than expected in the first 8 months of 2021
In 2020, a total of 70,919 deaths were recorded in the Flemish Region (among the legally resident population). That is 7% more than the expected number for 2020, which points to excess mortality. These figures refer to deaths for all causes, not only those as a result of COVID-19.
The excess mortality was highest in April, November and December 2020. In those months clearly more people died than expected. The expected number of deaths is based on the average mortality per month in the years 2015-2019 adjusted for population growth and changes in the age-composition.
During the first 8 months of 2021, mortality was in line with the figures during 2015 to 2019. Only in January the number of deaths was significantly higher than the average for the same month in the period 2015-2019. However, in none of the first 8 months in 2021 is there a significant difference between the observed and the expected number of deaths.
Nearly 8,500 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019
In 2020, 70,919 people died in the Flemish Region, 8,499 more than in 2019. This increase was almost twice as large as the total increase during the past 20 years: in 2019 there were 4,918 more deaths than in 2000. While population growth and the progressive aging of the population are the main reasons for the increase in deaths between 2000 and 2019, the increase in 2020 was mainly due to COVID-19.
More deaths than births
In all years between 2000 and 2019, the number of births exceeded the number of deaths, resulting in a positive natural balance.
In 2020 however, the number of deaths exceeded the number of births with 70,919 deaths and 62,798 births. This resulted in a negative balance of -8,121 persons.
Premature mortality decreases in 2020
Premature mortality refers to mortality before the age of 75.
In 2020, 18,593 people died before the age of 75. This corresponds to 26% of the total number of deaths. For men the share is 33%, for women 20%. In 2020 premature mortality was lower than the previous year: in 2019, respectively, 35% and 22% of deaths among men and women occurred before the age of 75.
The share of premature mortality decreased between 2000 and 2020. However, the strength of this decline has weakened somewhat over the years, especially among women between 2015 and 2019.
Almost 11 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants in 2020
The Flemish Region recorded 10.7 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants in 2020. This crude death rate was slightly higher in the Walloon Region (12.3 per 1,000) and lower in the Brussels-Capital Region (9.0 per 1,000).
In the 3 regions, the crude death rate in 2020 was significantly higher than in previous years. Between 2000 and 2019, there were never more than 10 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants in the Flemish Region. For the Brussels-Capital Region, the crude death rate decreased significantly between 2000 and 2019.
Crude death rates are related to the age structure of the population. Unlike the Flemish and Walloon Regions, the population of the Brussels-Capital Region is becoming younger. This largely explains the decline in the crude death rate in that region.
Large municipal variation in crude death rate in 2020
Just under half of the cities and municipalities in the Flemish Region had a crude death rate that is higher than the average rate for the Flemish Region in 2020 (10.7 per 1,000 inhabitants). Particularly, but not exclusively, in the coastal municipalities, with their older population, relatively high values were noted. Municipalities with relatively low crude death rates are located in the northern half of Limburg, the Noorderkempen and in an extensive region around the Brussels-Capital Region.
Large cities such as Leuven (9), Mechelen (9), Ghent (9), Turnhout (10) and Antwerp (10) had lower rates than the Flemish average. Roeselare (11), Hasselt (11), Sint-Niklaas (11), Genk (11), Aalst (12), Bruges (12), Kortrijk (13) and Ostend (15) recorded above-average values.
Crude death rate in Flemish Region below the EU average
In 2019 the Flemish Region and Belgium noted crude death rates below the European average. The Member States with higher than average rates were Lithuania, Latvia and Bulgaria. The Member States with lower than average rates were Ireland, Luxembourg and Cyprus. The ranking partially reflects the age structure of the population in the Member States, with usually higher rates for countries with an older population and lower rates for countries with a younger population.
Data for 2020 are not yet available for all EU countries.
Natural balance: The number of births minus the number of deaths, often expressed per 100 inhabitants or per 1,000 inhabitants (average population = arithmetic mean of the population on 1 January and 31 December of the year).
Deaths: refer to the number of deaths among the legally resident population of the Flemish Region, i.e. persons with an official place of residence (main domicile) in the region. The deaths of persons registered in the waiting register (such as asylum seekers and applicants for international protection) are not included.
Crude death rate: expresses the number of deaths against the (average) population. This is generally expressed per 1,000 inhabitants. 'Crude' (or ‘gross’) rate is used because the age distribution of the population is not taken into account.
Usually resident population: the population habitually resident in the country as published by the European statistical office Eurostat. This partly includes persons registered in the waiting register for asylum seekers/applicants for international protection (depending on the length of stay according to the European provision).
Legally resident population (under Belgian law): the population registered in the National Register as published by the Belgian statistical office Statbel. It concerns residents with a right to permanent residence or settlement in Belgium or with a right to temporary residence (> 3 months) in the country. This does not include persons registered in the waiting register for asylum seekers.
Premature mortality : refers to mortality before the age of 75 (according to last birthday).
Excess mortality: positive difference between observed and expected value of the monthly number of deaths. The expected monthly mortality results from the average number of deaths for that month in the years 2015-2019, with corresponding correction for population growth and changes in the age structure (age groups in years: 0-24, 25-44, 45-64, 65-74, 75-84, 85 and older). There is statistically significant excess mortality if the lower bound of the two-sided 95% confidence interval (α = 0.05) around the estimated Standardized Mortality Ratio (= observed/expected number of deaths) exceeds the test value (ratio = 1).