An Instagram post underestimates Covid-19 deaths among younger people

19 January 2022
What was claimed

Only 3,774 people under 65 have died of Covid in the UK.

Our verdict

Incorrect. Up to the end of November 2021, 17,095 people under 65 died of Covid in England and Wales alone.

A post on Instagram from 15 January 2022 says: “Did you know that only 3,774 people under 65 have died of covid in the UK?”

This is not correct. Up to the end of November 2021, which is the latest data available, 17,095 people aged under 65 have died of Covid-19, just in England and Wales.

This means that they died with Covid-19 listed as the underlying cause of death on their death certificate.

What does “died of” mean?

The Instagram post includes a link to the Office for National Statistics website, which it claims gives a source for its figures. However, this link provides data about something different.

Firstly, it shows figures for England and Wales, not the whole of the UK, as the post claims.

Secondly, it shows the number of people who died with Covid as the only cause mentioned on their death certificate, without any other pre-existing conditions as contributory causes.

Many of the people who have died of Covid had another condition, but this does not mean they did not die “of Covid”.

For instance, about 21% of the people under 65 who died of Covid in England and Wales in the third quarter of 2021 had “diabetes” also mentioned as a contributory cause on their death certificate. This means that in the opinion of a doctor, diabetes was a factor in their death, but Covid itself was the underlying cause of it.

It would therefore be right to say that these people “died of Covid”.

About 32% of these people under 65 had no other condition mentioned besides Covid.

Covid deaths in the big picture

The Instagram post claimed that the 3,774 deaths it mentioned are “less than 0.5% of all deaths and less than 0.005% of the population”.

It’s not quite clear what the author is saying here. “All deaths” might be intended to mean all Covid deaths, or all deaths from any cause—or either, but only among under-65s. Whereas “the population” might mean the population who are under 65, or it might mean the whole population. (Though it should be the population of England and Wales, not the UK, in either case.)

Assuming the post is talking about the percentage of all deaths under 65 in England and Wales from March 2020 to November 2021 that had Covid as the underlying cause, the correct figure is that these 17,095 deaths represent about 10% of the total.

These 17,095 deaths would account for 0.04% of the estimated population of England and Wales under 65 in mid 2020.

Photo by Mulyadi on Unsplash

Correction 28 January 2022

"A sentence was changed to clarify that the FOI response showed deaths due to Covid where there was no pre-existing condition listed on the death certificate."

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because many more people under 65 have died of Covid than this post claims.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.