June 07, 2021 | News | COVID-19 Blog

Researching the Demographic Consequences of the Pandemic

How do infection control measures affect demographics worldwide? © iStockphoto.com/AsiaVision

The COVID-19 pandemic has been dominating our lives for a year now. Science has done an extraordinary job during this time at unravelling mysteries and unlocking solutions. In like manner, researchers at MPIDR are investigating demographic issues in connection to the novel coronavirus.

June 7, 2021

Did Vulnerable Populations Respond Differently to the First Wave of the Pandemic?


Daniela Perrotta: “We investigate the association between the threat perception of COVID-19 and the use of face masks, and its variation in vulnerable populations during the first wave of pandemic. We leverage data from a large cross-national online survey, the “COVID-19 Health Behavior Survey” (CHBS), that we conducted on Facebook via targeted advertisements. Specifically, we analyzed a sample of 91,376 completed questionnaires collected from March 13 to May 7, 2020 in seven European countries and in the United States. We found evidence that both the adoption of face masks and the threat perception to oneself were higher among the vulnerable segments of the populations. Overall, we estimated that individuals who perceived a high threat of COVID-19 to themselves were 2.25 times more likely to wear a face mask than those with lower threat perception.”

Original Publication

Perrotta, D., Del Fava, E., Zagheni, E.: The Role of Vulnerability in Mediating the Relationship between Threat Perception and the Use of Face Masks in the Context of COVID-19. Proceeding of the International Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM) (2021) DOI: 10.36190/2021.43

May 20, 2021

Excess Deaths Associated with the Covid-19 Pandemic in 29 High Income Countries

Vladimir Shkolnikov: “We estimate that about one million excess deaths occurred in 29 high income countries in 2020. Age-standardized excess death rates were higher in men than women in almost all countries. That means more men than women died from Covid-19. All countries had excess deaths in 2020, except New Zealand, Norway, and Denmark. The three countries with the highest absolute number of excess deaths were the US, Italy and England and Wales. We also found little evidence that mortality reduces as subsequent compensation following excess mortality.”

Original Publication

Islam, N., Shkolnikov, V., Acosta, R., Klimkin, I., Kawachi, I., Irizarry, R., Alicandro, G., Khunti, K., Yates, T., Jdanov, D., White, M., Lewington, S., Lacey, B.: Excess deaths associated with covid-19 pandemic in 2020: age and sex disaggregated time series analysis in 29 high income countries (2021). DOI: 10.1136/bmj.n1137

May 18, 2021

COVerAGE-DB: A Global Demographic Database of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths 

© MPIDR/Hagedorn

Enrique Acosta: “Centralization, standardization and harmonization of data are critical to enable comparisons of the demographic impact of COVID-19 which take into account differences in the age and sex compositions of confirmed infections and deaths. The international data landscape must keep pace with the global march of the pandemic.

That is why COVerAGE-DB aims to provide global coverage of key demographic aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic as it unfolds in an up-to-date, transparent and open-access format. COVerAGE-DB offers data with standardized count measures by sex and harmonized age groups.

The database is currently under expansion through both the increase in coverage of national and subnational populations and the inclusion of more recent periods as the pandemic continues. At the moment, the database contains daily counts of COVID-19 cases, deaths and tests performed, by age and sex, for 108 national and 371 subnational populations around the world.

This project was made possible thanks to the valuable contributions of an international team of more than 70 researchers.” 

Original Publication

Riffe, T., Acosta, E., the COVerAGE-DB team:Data Resource Profile: COVerAGE-DB: a global demographic database of COVID-19 cases and deaths. International Journal of Epidemiology (2021). DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyab027

April 29, 2021

COVID-19 in England and Wales: Excess Deaths Could Have Doubled Without Mobility Reductions

© MPIDR/Wilhelm

Ugofilippo Basellini: “We investigated the relationship between excess mortality and changes in mobility to assess the effectiveness of the policies to reduce mortality in England and Wales. Our study is one of the first attempts to quantify the effects of mobility reductions on excess mortality.” 

Original Publication

Basellini, U., Alburez-Gutierrez, D., Del Fava, E., Perrotta, D., Bonetti, M., Camarda, C., Zagheni, E.: Linking excess mortality to mobility data during the first wave of COVID-19 in England and Wales. SSM - Population Health (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2021.100799

Related Press Release

April 27, 2021

Why did COVID-19 claim seven times more lives of those infected in Italy compared to South Korea?

Alyson Van Raalte: “In Italy, around one in seven people suffering from COVID-19 died at the end of June 2020 compared to a good two percent of those infected in South Korea. These differences are largely explained by the age structure of people who had tested positive for COVID-19, but to some degree they also reflect differences in the extent to which the healthcare systems were overburdened.”

Original Publication

Dudel, C., T. Riffe, E. Acosta, A. van Raalte, C. Strozza and M. Myrskylä: Monitoring trends and differences in COVID-19 case-fatality rates using decomposition methods: contributions of age structure and age-specific fatality. PLoS ONE 15(2020)9, e0238904. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0238904

Related Press Release 

April 19, 2021

How did people change their behavior during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic?


Daniela Perrotta: “To answer this question, we collected data in a timely and rapid manner via Facebook and used appropriate survey designs and statistical methods. Based on the COVID-19 Health Behaviour Survey (CHBS), we provide insights from a total of 71,612 completed questionnaires collected in March and April 2020 in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Compared to other studies, our survey stands out thanks to its timeliness, cross-national and comparative nature, and population coverage, which allowed us to provide important insights. This includes people’s perceptions of the threat, adoption of preventive behaviors, and trust in governments and healthcare systems in their preparedness to deal with the pandemic.”

More about the project

Project Team

Daniela Perrotta, André Grow, Jorge Cimentada, Emanuele Del Fava, Sofia Gil ClavelFrancesco Rampazzo, Emilio Zagheni

Original Publication

Perrotta, D., Grow, A., Rampazzo, F., Cimentada, J., Del Fava, E., Gil-Clavel, S., Zagheni, E.: Behaviors and attitudes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: Insights from a cross-national Facebook survey. EPJ Data Science (2021) DOI: 10.1140/epjds/s13688-021-00270-1

Press Release 2020

April 13, 2021

Does the US population suffer from excess death compared to European counterparts?

Yana Vierboom: “The population in the United States suffers from a mortality disadvantage. By comparing death rates in the U.S. with those of the five biggest European countries, we found excess death numbers to be greater than the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in 2020. We do not want to diminish the tremendous losses due to COVID-19 in the U.S. and elsewhere — it’s just a helpful tool to put the U.S. mortality disadvantage into perspective.”

More about the project

Original publication

Preston, S.H. Vierboom, Y.C.: Excess Mortality in the United States in the Twenty-First Century. PNAS Brief Report (2021) DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2024850118

Related Press Release


March 26, 2021

Did People Put Their Childbearing Plans on Hold due to COVID-19?


Ainhoa Alustiza: “People often put their childbearing plans on hold in uncertain times. We study the most recent data on monthly birth trends to analyze the initial fertility responses to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research shows the initial signs of the expected birth recession. Monthly number of births in many countries fell sharply between October 2020 and the most recent month observed. That is often bringing about a clear reversal of the previous trend. The combined effect of rising mortality and falling birth rates is disrupting the balance of births and deaths in many countries. That is pushing natural population increase to record low levels in 2020 and 2021.”

More about the project

Preliminary Publication (pre-print without peer review)

Sobotka, T., Jasilioniene, A., Galarza, A. A., Zeman, K., Nemeth, L., Jdanov, D.: Baby bust in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic? First results from the new STFF data series. (2021). DOI: 10.31235/osf.io/mvy62

Project team

Ainhoa Alustiza Galarza, Aiva Jasilioniene, Dmitri Jdanov, László Németh
Vienna Institute of Demography: Tomas Sobotka, Krystof Zeman

STFF Data collection



March 12, 2021

What Consequences Does COVID-19 Have on Fertility?

Aiva Jasilioniene © MPIDR

Aiva Jasilioniene: “Today we published up-to-date monthly birth counts for 32 countries. The Short-Term Fertility Fluctuations (STFF) data series is a new addition to the Human Fertility Database (HFD) where we provide up-to-date indicators on monthly trends in births. This new data resource was developed in response to the increased interest and importance of research on the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for the fertility trends. And we will update this data set quite frequently and also include more countries when data becomes available.

The unprecedented measures adopted by countries to combat the spread of the coronavirus have had wide-ranging effects on social and family life. In the short run, families have gone through both positive experiences like spending more time together during the lockdowns and negative experiences like dealing with stress and uncertainty. In the longer-term, many people will be affected by the unfolding economic crisis and the long-term implications of lockdowns and restrictions. These experiences have inevitably influenced their fertility plans and will be reflected in the population-level fertility trends.”

More about the project

The STFF series complements the Human Fertility Database (HFD) by providing the latest data on fertility variation within a calendar year. For many countries included in this series, data on monthly birth counts are available with a delay of only a few months.

The largest part of the STFF data come from the HFD. Data for the most recent months as well as full datasets for countries that are not included in the HFD have been collected from national statistical offices. In many cases, the most recent data are preliminary estimates and are therefore subject to change.

While the immediate objective of the STFF series is to provide timely fertility data for monitoring and examining the consequences of the ongoing pandemic, in the long-term perspective this data project aims to facilitate research on fertility responses to various events, producing marked shifts in the fertility trends at the population level. The analysis of monthly fertility changes can be useful and insightful not only in relation to such severe occurrences like pandemics, wars, economic crises, or natural disasters, but also to relevant contextual factors that have strong impact on childbearing behavior.

Project team

Ainhoa Alustiza Galarza, Aiva Jasilioniene, Dmitri Jdanov, László Németh
Vienna Institute of Demography: Tomas Sobotka, Krystof Zeman

STFF Data collection


STFF visualizing tool



March 8, 2021

How can Politicians in Italian Regions be Supported in Making Data-based Decisions?

Ugofilippo Basellini. © MPIDR

Ugofilippo Basellini: "We want to provide politicians in Italy an app that allows them to easily locate particularly affected regions and risk areas. To do this, we have modelled the number of cases and deaths by Covid-19 in Italian regions and provinces with a suitable statistical approach, i.e. Poisson regression. This allows us to measure and conveniently visualize how the spread of Covid-19 in Italy changes over time."

More about the project

Original publication

Bonetti, M.; Basellini, U.: Epilocal: a real-time tool for local epidemic monitoring. Demographic Research (2021) DOI: 10.4054/DemRes.2021.44.12

The App



March 3, 2021

How to Calculate Week-specific Age-standardized Death Rates from STMF Data?

Dmitri Jdanov © MPIDR

Dmitri Jdanov: “The Short-Term Mortality Fluctuations (STMF) data series provides an opportunity to analyze intra-ann­­ual excess mortality, in particular, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the STMF has a limitation caused by the nature of the collected original weekly death counts. In many countries, weekly death counts are available only by broad age groups or/and are too small and shaky. Moreover, the original age scales somewhat vary by country. Thus, the STMF data file presents weekly deaths and death rates by broad age intervals. The comparisons may be biased due to differences between the population age composition. Our new paper addresses the problem by providing a method for the estimation of week-specific standardized death rates (SDRs) that combines the aggregated weekly mortality data with detailed annual data on mortality and population. We are planning to include SDRs in the STMF data series soon, too.”

More about the project

Preliminary Publication (working paper without peer review)

Klimkin, I., Shkolnikov, V. M., Jdanov, D. A.: Calculation of week-specific age-standardized death rates from STMF data on mortality by broad age intervals. MPIDR Working Paper (2021) DOI: 10.4054/MPIDR-WP-2021-004

++++February 2021++++

February 18, 2021

Which Cohort Accounts for Most of the Years of Life Lost?

© Linda Tammisto

Mikko Myrskylä: “To properly assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mortality, it is not enough to only count the number of dead. That's why we evaluated more than 1.2 million deaths attributed to COVID-19 in 81 countries to learn how old the people who died from COVID-19 were, and how much their lives were shortened compared to the average life expectancy. Middle aged people and those in early retirement bear the largest share of total years of life lost in global comparison.”

Original publication

Pifarré i Arolas, H., Acosta, E., López Casasnovas, G., Lo, A., Nicodemo, C., Riffe, T., Myrskylä, M.: Years of life lost to COVID-19 in 81 countries. Scientific Reports (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-83040-3

Related Press Release

February 8, 2021

How to Visualize COVID-19 Excess Mortality in 38 Countries

László Németh: “Currently, the STMF data series contains weekly death counts and death rates by age and sex for 38 countries and regions and is still growing. We decided to add a visualization layer to the database to simplify access to the data. In doing so, we want to enable users to explore the data, enhance the basic understanding, and stimulate research on mortality outbreaks and seasonal variations.”

Original publication

Németh, L., Jdanov, D.A., Shkolnikov, V.M.: An open-sourced, web-based application to analyze weekly excess mortality based on the Short-term Mortality Fluctuations data series. PLOS ONE. (2021) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0246663

Related Press Release

February 5, 2021

How the Covid-19 Pandemic Amplifies Existing Trends in Demographic Research

Emilio Zagheni © MPIDR/Hagedorn

Emilio Zagheni: “Digital trace data are not the result of the pandemic. But Covid-19 has likely changed the perception that companies, scholars and professional organizations have of these data. That opened new opportunities for progress. Some of the mixing between industry and academia is likely to have planted the seeds for new forms of joint ventures. If appropriate measures are developed to guarantee privacy, data-protection and ethical frameworks for the use of digital traces, the pandemic may mark a milestone for the rapid acceleration of partnerships between scientists and holders of private data and infrastructure.”

Original publication

Zagheni, E.: Covid-19: A Tsunami that Amplifies Existing Trends in Demographic Research. Population and Development Review (2021).  

COVID-19 Blog 2020

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.