COVID-19 appears to be the 3rd leading cause of death among all ages, and 1st leading cause of death among 35-49-year-olds, in 2021.
A new report shows Cowlitz County’s overall death rate increased by at least 18% during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s up from an average decrease of 1% per year over 2015-2019.
The report, published by Cowlitz County Health & Human Services, breaks down deaths by age and identifies the leading causes.
Citing final death certificate data for 2015-2020, and preliminary data for 2021, the analysis focuses on COVID-19, drug/alcohol overdose, and suicide deaths – particularly among youth and young adults – in response to questions from the community.
The report shows what happened with deaths in Cowlitz County, but not why various trends occurred. Identifying the potential causes behind trends requires additional analysis and data that are beyond the scope of the report.
Read the full report here: https://bit.ly/3KN8hln
Overall, cancer and heart disease were the top two leading causes of death among county residents – both before and during the pandemic.
Preliminary data show deaths from cancer, heart disease, and other common causes did not change significantly in 2020 or 2021. COVID-19, however, increased significantly from 27 deaths in 2020 and at least 244 in 2021.
COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death among all ages, and the first leading cause of death among 35-49-year-olds in 2021, preliminary data show. That year, cancer and COVID-19 tied as the first leading causes of death among 50-64-year-olds.
In 2021, COVID-19 deaths were 10 times higher than drug/alcohol overdose and suicide deaths.
COVID-19 had less of a toll in Cowlitz County during the first year of the pandemic, causing approximately 10 times fewer deaths in 2020 than in 2021. Drug/alcohol overdose deaths exceeded COVID-19 and suicide deaths in 2020, but only slightly.
Drug/alcohol overdose deaths may have increased by about one-third in 2020 and remained elevated in 2021. Suicide deaths were on par with pre-pandemic trends in 2020 and may have seen a small increase in 2021.
In general, the number of deaths among youth and young adults ages 0-49 was too small to detect significant changes over time.
Preliminary data show no substantial increase in drug/alcohol overdose or suicide deaths among 0-17 and 18-34-year-olds in 2020 or 2021. Residents ages 35-49 may have seen an increase in drug/alcohol overdose deaths during the pandemic.
The report also examines premature deaths, which are measured by years of potential life lost.
Cowlitz County’s life expectancy is 78 years old. Years of potential life lost are calculated by taking the number of people age 77 and younger who died within a given year and breaking that down by cause of death. Their age is then subtracted from 78.
Preliminary data show COVID-19 caused 3-4X more years of potential life lost than drug/alcohol overdose and suicide deaths in 2021.
The opposite was true in 2020 with suicide and drug/alcohol overdose causing about 4X more years of potential life lost than COVID-19.
The findings in this report are based on final death certificate data for 2015-2020 and preliminary data for 2021. Data for 2021 will likely increase once final in fall 2022.
If 2021 data follow prior-year trends, total death counts may increase by 1-2%; drug/alcohol overdose death counts may increase by 30-40%; and suicide death counts may increase by 12%. Total COVID-19 death counts may rise by 2%.
If final data increase by these levels, our findings will be similar to this report.
Once the data for 2021 are final, Cowlitz County Health & Human Services will publish an updated version of the report with further analysis.
Have questions? Let us know by emailing AskCowlitzHealth@co.cowlitz.wa.us.