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"). Following a long stable phase, the number of deaths has increased again since the mid 2000s. In contrast, the standardised mortality rate continues to fall and has more than halved since 1970. In 2020, the standardised mortality rate rose again due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last time it was exceptionally high was in 2015 due to the seasonal flu and a heatwave in July.

Mortality

Year

Number of deaths

Standardised mortality rate1

 

Men

Women

Men

Women

2020

37 624

38 571

543

365

2019 32 756 35 024 488 342

2018

32 398

34 690

498 347
2017

32 406

34 565

513 349
2016

31 283

 33 681

  508   352

2015

32 646

34 960

  547

  367

2014

30 950

32 988

534

356

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

Continuous registration of deaths

On the basis of the weekly numbers of death, periods with excess mortality can be detected. From mid-June (CW24) to the start of September 2022 (CW34), mortality among the over-65s was above the expected value. In the evaluation, it should be taken into account that very high temperatures prevailed in Switzerland during this period. As of week 39 the number of deaths in the 65+ age group is again higher than the long-term expected value.

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. A total tally of deaths from COVID-19 will be possible only after the end of the epidemic in Switzerland.

The evolution of excess mortality was not the same throughout Switzerland’s regions, see here. Please take into account the remark on methodology below. As the number of deaths in 2020 was extraordinarily high, the calculation of excess mortality in 2021 continues to be based on the expected number of deaths calculated for 2020. For the calculation of the expected values in 2022, the periods with excess mortality in 2020 and 2021 were taken into account. 

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.

In mortality monitoring, the "observed" figures can thus be compared with the "expected" figures. 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 on 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 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.

Additional information

Number of deaths and mortality rates

For three decades, the annual number of deaths was around 60 000. In 2012, for the first time over 64 000 deaths were recorded. Whereas the number of deaths of persons aged under 80 is decreasing, the trend is the opposite for persons aged over 80. This can be explained by the increasing number of elderly persons. Age-standardised mortality rates (mortality figures) have been in continuous decline since 1970, apart from 1990 and 2015. In 2020 the age-standardised mortality rates for men and women rose once again to the level of 2015.

Further information

Graphs

Publications

Press Releases

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
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CH-2010 Neuchâtel
Switzerland
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