Volume 44 - Article 16 | Pages 379–396  

Age and COVID-19 mortality: A comparison of Gompertz doubling time across countries and causes of death

By Isaac Sasson


Background: Demographers have emphasized the importance of age in explaining the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on mortality. However, the relationship between COVID-19 mortality and age should be contextualized in relation to other causes of death.

Objective: To compare the age pattern of COVID-19 mortality with other causes of death and across countries, and to use these regularities to impute age-specific death counts in countries with limited data.

Methods: The COVID-19 mortality doubling time in a Gompertz context was compared with 65 major causes of death using US vital statistics. COVID-19 fatality doubling time was similarly compared across 27 countries and used for estimating death counts by age in Israel as a case in point.

Results: First, COVID-19 mortality increases exponentially with age at a Gompertz rate near the median of aging-related causes of death, as well as pneumonia and influenza. Second, COVID-19 mortality levels are 2.8 to 8.2 times higher than pneumonia and influenza across the adult age range. Third, the relationship between both COVID-19 mortality and fatality and age varies considerably across countries.

Conclusions: The increase in COVID-19 mortality with age resembles the population rate of aging. Country differences in the age pattern of COVID-19 mortality and fatality may point to differences in underlying population health, standards of clinical care, or data quality.

Contribution: This study underscores the need to contextualize the age pattern of COVID-19 mortality in relation to other causes of death. Furthermore, it demonstrates how to estimate age-specific COVID-19 deaths in countries with limited data availability.

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