Mortality, causes of death

The mortality statistics report the number of deaths, the cause of death statistics report the causes behind these deaths (see "specific causes of death").

Mortality

Year

Number of deaths

Standardised mortality rate1

 

Men

Women

Men

Women

2022 36 442 37 983 504 352
2021

35 105

36 087

502

342

2020

37 624

38 571

543

365

2019 32 756 35 024 488 342

2018

32 398

34 690

498 347
1 Standardised mortality rate by age per 100,000 inhabitants Source: BEVNAT, CoD

Number of deaths and mortality rates

Over three decades, the number of deaths was around 60 000 persons. Following a long stable phase, the number of deaths has increased again since the mid-2000s. Overall, the number of deaths of people under 80 years of age is decreasing, while more and more people are dying at the age of 80 and over. This development is due to the increasing number of older people in the population. In 2020, the number of deaths exceeded 70 000 for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

From 1970 to 2019, the standardised mortality rate (death rate) fell steadily for both men and women and more than halved over this period. In 2020, the standardised mortality rate increased again due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the standardised mortality rate for men and women decreased in the second year of the pandemic, 2021, it rose again in 2022 for both sexes.

Continuous registration of deaths

On the basis of the weekly numbers of deaths, periods with excess mortality can be detected.

In the course of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in Switzerland so far, the first period of excess mortality was observed in spring 2020 from 16.3.2020 (week 12/2020) to 19.4.2020 (week 16/2020).

In autumn 2020, there was a second period with very high excess mortality from 19.10.2020 (week 43/2020) to 31.1.2021 (week 4/2021).

At the end of 2021, from 8.11.2021 (week 45/2021) to 09.01.2022 (week 01/2022) a third period of excess mortality occurred in the age group 65 and above.

In summer 2022, from mid-June (week 24/2022) to the start of September (week 34/2022), mortality among over 65-year-olds was above the expected value. From autumn 2022 (week 39/2022) until January 2023 (week 01/2023), a further period of excess mortality was observed among over 65-year-olds. The cause of death statistics for 2022 show that a large number of people continued to die with COVID-19 as the main cause of death (2020: 9294 cases, 2021: 5967 cases, 2022: 4114 cases). While excess mortality in the pandemic years 2020 and 2021 can be attributed almost entirely to COVID-19 deaths, in 2022 it can no longer be explained exclusively by the number of reported COVID-19 deaths. It is worth noting here that the number of tests carried out changed over the course of the pandemic and was significantly reduced in 2022. In 2022, the heat in summer and flu cases at the end of the year are also possible causes for the increased mortality.

Since mid-November (week 46/2023), nationwide mortality among over 65-year-olds has been above the upper limit of the expected range. The excess mortality could be related to an increase in flu cases and COVID-19 cases as well as respiratory infections cases in the same period.

The evolution of excess mortality was not the same throughout Switzerland’s regions, see here. Please take into account the remark on methodology below.  

Methodology: Deaths are reported to the competent civil registry office and recorded in a central database. Assuming a constant reporting flow, the FSO estimates the number of cases. The number of deaths normally expected is calculated on the basis of the development of case numbers in each age group over the previous five years. The seasonal distribution of deaths over the 52 weeks of the year is calculated on the basis of the median of each calendar week of the past ten years. Finally, a range is calculated for each expected value within which fluctuations must be considered random. The calculation of the expected number of deaths thus does not simply correspond to an average value, but takes into account the change in the population from year to year as well as random fluctuations.

As the number of observed deaths in 2020 was extraordinarily high, the calculation of the expected value for 2021 continues to be based on the statistically expected number of deaths for 2020 – both for the 65+ age group and for the 0-64 age group. To calculate the expected values for the year 2022, however, for the 65+ age group, only the three periods of excess mortality in 2020 and 2021 have been replaced by the corresponding statistically expected value for 2020. For the remaining periods in 2020 and 2021, the observed number of deaths have been used to calculate the expected value for 2022. (For the 0-64 age group, the observed deaths for all periods in 2020 and 2021 have been used to calculate the expected value for 2022).

As yet, no clear cause for the excess mortality in 2022 has been established. For this reason, to calculate the expected values for 2023 in the 65+ age group, the three periods of excess mortality in 2020 and 2021 have once again been replaced by the corresponding statistically expected value for 2020. For the year 2022, however, only the observed number of deaths are taken into account. (For the 0-64 age group, the observed number of deaths from all three years, 2020, 2021 and 2021, are used to calculate the expected values for 2023.

The total number of deaths expected in 2023 is in line with the trend over the past ten years based on population increase and ageing.

In mortality monitoring, the "observed" figures can thus be compared with the "expected" figures in a timely manner. The FSO has been publishing these figures weekly since 11 May 2015. The monitoring covers all persons resident in Switzerland who have died in Switzerland.

The annual case numbers of influenza reported in the cause of death statistics of previous years are not suitable and not comparable for monitoring acute infectious diseases. In the cause of death statistics, a single diagnosis of the disease that led to death must be selected for each death. According to the rules of the World Health Organization, this is the underlying disease that was present at the beginning of the course of the disease and not the last event that finally led to death. Even in the case of multiple illnesses, the tables published worldwide on the causes of death include only one underlying disease. Mortality monitoring is therefore not suitable for the monitoring of a single cause of death, such as the influenza. It was specially developed to monitor overall mortality.

Additional information

Further information

Graphs

Publications

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Statistical sources and concepts

On this topic

Specific causes of death

Leading causes of death by age and sex; premature mortality and potential years of life lost

Infant mortality, stillbirths

Trends in the infant mortality rate and the stillbirth rate

Contact

Federal Statistical Office Sections Health Services, Population Health
Espace de l'Europe 10
CH-2010 Neuchâtel
Switzerland

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