A post showing a still from a UK Column YouTube video, which compares deaths from various illnesses to Covid-19, has been shared on Facebook. Another post (since deleted) was shared over 20,000 times, and our readers also sent us a version that was circulating on WhatsApp.
The figure given for deaths from Covid-19 was wrong at the time the video was posted. The figures for non-Covid deaths seem to be estimates based on data from previous years, and while they are mostly in the right territory they are not all accurate.
It is far too soon for us to know the actual recent figures of deaths from cancer, dementia, heart disease and stroke. This data is released annually and isn’t broken down by individual days. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that the figures for non-Covid deaths given here are real. We do have daily figures of deaths from Covid-19 due to the pandemic.
The video claims that the daily death figures “at the moment” show 21 people dying of Covid-19 in England. This is incorrect. On 21 October when the video was posted, the number of deaths of people who had tested positive for Covid-19 and died within 28 days was 173. The average number in the seven days leading up to this was 142 deaths per day.
The last day on which deaths were at or lower than 21 was 19 September, over a month before the video was posted, when 17 people in England died.
The video also claims that daily deaths from cancer in England were 450. This figure appears to come from Cancer Research UK data from 2015 to 2017. Under the Office for National Statistics (ONS) definition of cancer as malignant neoplasms, 137,850 people were registered in 2019 as having cancer as an underlying cause of death, which is about 378 people a day. Adding in benign tumours, this rises to 141,066 yearly deaths or 386 daily deaths.
The video claims that daily deaths from dementia in England are at 192 per day. ONS data says that deaths from dementia and it’s most common cause, Alzheimer’s disease, in 2019 were 43,213 and 19,563 respectively. This results in 172 daily deaths from both.
The video says 174 people are dying daily from heart disease in England. Heart disease is a very broad and undefined term which can mean many different things depending on what is being considered. The British Heart Foundation has previously claimed that around 180 people a day die from coronary heart disease each year. The ONS told Full Fact that anything classified under diseases of the circulatory system could possibly be called heart disease. Total yearly death figures from all circulatory system diseases are 120,657, so about 331 a day.
We have previously reported on daily deaths from stroke. The Facebook post says that 99 people died of a stroke daily. This appears to also come from reporting by the British Heart Foundation which says around 36,000 deaths happen due to strokes each year. We found that the figure in 2019 was about 65 a day.
The limited data that we do have on non-Covid deaths this year does suggest that the death rate for many major illnesses is fairly similar to prior years.