France 2020: 68,000 excess deaths attributable to COVID-19

Press release Published on 15 March 2021

Authors: Gilles Pison and France Meslé

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on the demography of France. Deaths have increased substantially, and births have decreased with a lag of 9 months. Commenting on the demographic situation of 2020, Gilles Pison and France Meslé explain more specifically why the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in 2020 far exceeds the increase in deaths from all causes between 2019 and 2020.

The number of deaths recorded in France in 2020 was up 55,000 from 2019, significantly less than the 68,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in 2020. This difference is due to the decline in other causes of death, such as influenza and road accidents. Other causes are also likely to have declined, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic respiratory failure. While some of the frail people suffering from these diseases have indeed died from COVID-19, they would have died in 2020 even without the pandemic, and their death would have been attributed to a different cause.

The number of births is likely to fall sharply in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the rise in unemployment and high levels of uncertainty about the future, many couples wishing to have a child have postponed their childbearing plans. The decrease in births was already visible in late 2020 and early 2021. There were 7% fewer December births in 2020 than in December 2019, most of the children born in this month having been conceived in March 2020, some just before the start of the first lockdown on 17 March, and some just after. Likewise, there were 13% fewer babies born in January 2021 than in January 2020, almost all of whom were conceived during the first lockdown. The statistics for subsequent months will show whether this is an ongoing trend.

Published on: 17/03/2021