September 24, 2021 | News | COVID-19 Blog

Researching the Demographic Consequences of the Pandemic

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

The COVID-19 pandemic has been dominating our lives for more than 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.

September 24, 2021

How Much did Mortality Increase During the COVID-19 Pandemic 2020 in Guatemala?

© MPIDR

Diego Alburez-Gutierrez: “Relative to the years 2015 to 2019, we found that the mortality rates in Guatemala declined by 26 percent during the first weeks of the pandemic in 2020. These declines were sustained through October 2020 for the population younger than 20 and for deaths occurring in public spaces. For the population aged 20 to 39 years, these lower rates returned to normal from July onwards. We found a peak of 73 percent excess mortality in mid-July, especially for the population older than 40. We estimate around 8,000 excess deaths in 2020. That is 46 percent higher than the official number of reported COVID-19 deaths in Guatemala.  Less than 10 percent of the population has been vaccinated so far – decisive action from the authorities in this arena can help to save lives.”

Original Publication

Martinez-Folgar, K., Alburez-Gutierrez, D., Paniagua-Avila, A., Ramirez-Zea, M., Bilal, U.: Excess Mortality During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Guatemala. American Journal of Public Health. (2021) DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2021.306452

September 6, 2021

In response to data challenges: The Short-term Mortality Fluctuations (STMF) data series provides data on weekly all-cause mortality

© MPIDR

Dmitri Jdanov: “The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed substantial quality gaps in existing international and national statistical monitoring systems. It is striking that obtaining timely, accurate, and comparable data is very challenging. The most robust and reliable approach to quantify the mortality burden due to short-term risk factors is based on estimating weekly excess deaths. This approach is more reliable than monitoring deaths with COVID-19 diagnosis or calculating incidence or fatality rates. The later are affected by numerous problems such as testing coverage and comparability of diagnostic approaches. In response to these data challenges, we established a new data resource on weekly mortality. The Short-term Mortality Fluctuations (STMF) data series is the first international database providing open-access harmonized, uniform, and fully documented data on weekly all-cause mortality.”

Original Publication

Jdanov, D.A., Alustiza Galarza, A., Shkolnikov, V.M. et al.: The short-term mortality fluctuation data series, monitoring mortality shocks across time and space. Scientific Data (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41597-021-01019-1

STMF Database, Part of the Human Mortality Database

https://mortality.org

+++August+++

August 12, 2021

Data From the COVID-19 Health Behavior Survey is Part of a Meta-Study that Improves Mathematical Models of Contact Patterns for COVID-19

© MPIDR/Hagedorn

Emanuele Del Fava: “In spring 2020 we conducted a large cross-national online survey, the COVID-19 Health Behavior Survey (CHBS), in seven European countries and in the United States, recruiting participants via targeted advertisements on Facebook. We measured, among other things, social contact patterns under the implementation of physical distancing measures. The data of this survey is now part of a meta-study published in Epidemiology that aims to synthesize empirical data on the changing social contact patterns during the pandemic to improve mathematical models.

The meta-study identified 12 studies that reported social contact patterns during the pandemic. The majority of those studies (11/12) collected data during the initial mitigation period in the spring of 2020 marked by government-declared lockdowns and the most stringent physical distancing measures. Some studies collected additional data after relaxation of initial mitigation. Most study settings reported a mean of between 2-5 contacts per person per day, a substantial reduction compared to the rates prior to COVID-19 which ranged from 7-26 contacts per day in similar settings. This reduction was particularly pronounced for contacts outside of the home. After relaxation of initial restrictions, mean contact rates subsequently increased, but did not return to pre-COVID levels. Information on changes in contact patterns during physical distancing measures can guide more realistic representations of contact patterns in mathematical models for COVID-19 transmission”

Original Publication

Liu, C.Y., Berlin, J., Kiti, M.C., Del Fava, E., Grow, A., Zagheni, E., Melegaro, A., Jenness, S.M., Omer, S., Lopman, B., Nelson, K.: Rapid review of social contact patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic. Epidemiology (2021). DOI: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000001412

August 9, 2021

Were There More Stillbirths During the First COVID-19 Lockdown in Germany?

© MPIDR

Maxi S. Kniffka: “We detected a steady increase in stillbirths in Germany since 2013. From January to July 2020 the stillbirth rate was slightly lower than that of the same period in 2019. All monthly rates of stillbirths during the first half of 2020 lie inside the 95 percent prediction interval of expected rates for this period. That means that stillbirth rates were not higher than expected. Our results suggest that there weren’t more stillbirths during the first-wave COVID-19 lockdown. But in contrast to other European countries, stillbirth rates have been on the rise in Germany in the last decade.”

Original Publication

Kniffka, M.S., Nitsche, N., Rau, R., Kühn, M.: Stillbirths in Germany: On the rise, but no additional increases during the first COVID-19 lockdown. International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (2021). DOI: 10.1002/ijgo.13832

+++July+++

July 27, 2021

Why it is Important to Carefully Choose Inputs and Methods to Estimate Excess Mortality

© MPIDR

Marília Nepomuceno: “Estimating excess mortality is challenging. The metric depends on the expected mortality level, which can differ based on given choices, such as the method and the time series length used to estimate the baseline. However, these choices are often arbitrary and seldomly subject to any sensitivity analysis. That is why we show how important it is to carefully choose the inputs and methods used to estimate excess mortality. We draw on data from 26 countries and investigate how sensitive excess mortality is to the choice of the mortality index, the number of years included in the reference period, the method, and the time unit of the death series. We employ two mortality indices, three reference periods, two data time units, and four methods for estimating the baseline. We show that excess mortality estimates can vary substantially when these factors are changed, and that the largest variations stem from the choice of the mortality index and the method.”

Preliminary Publication (working paper without peer review)

Nepomuceno, M.R., Klimkin, I., Jdanov, D.A., Alustiza Galarza, A., Shkolnikov, V.: Sensitivity of excess mortality due to the COVID-19 pandemic to the choice of the mortality index, method, reference period, and the time unit of the death series. medrxiv (2021). DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.20.21260869

July 15, 2021

Did Mothers Have the Greatest Mental Health Declines During the First Wave of the Pandemic?

© MPIDR

Mine Kühn: “Our study investigates mental health inequalities by family type and gender during the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany. We analyzed three dimensions of mental health: self-reported stress, exhaustion, and loneliness one year before the pandemic and in spring 2020. We found that two-parent families emerge as a vulnerable group, as they experienced the largest increases in levels of stress and exhaustion. We also found that mothers reported significantly higher levels of stress, lack of energy, and loneliness than fathers, and this gap was particularly striking for mothers living with the father of their children. As the study is based on data collected during the first lockdown in spring 2020, we have strong reasons to assume that the current mental health effects of the pandemic are even larger than our results indicate.”

Preliminary Publication (working paper without peer review)

Hiekel, N, Kühn, M.: Mental health before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: the role of partnership and parenthood status in growing disparities between types of families. (2021). DOI: 10.4054/MPIDR-WP-2021-013

July 7, 2021

Who Should be Vaccinated First Against COVID-19?

© MPIDR/Hagedorn

Enrique Acosta: “The question about prioritizing vaccination is complex and links science, policy, and ethics. One dilemma is whether societies should aim at minimizing the number of deaths in the short run – which may require vaccinating the oldest first – or maximizing the number of life years saved. Prior research shows that in many countries, for example the U.S., Germany and South Korea, this dilemma does not exist: vaccinating the oldest first minimizes the deaths and also maximizes life years. Based on an analysis of 40 countries, however, we found that this is not always the case: vaccinating the oldest age-group first does not always save both the most lives and life-years. We find that vaccinating the oldest first does not maximize life-years saved in several countries, among them Peru, Chile, or Ukraine. These differences across countries might result from divergences in the age profile of both comorbidities and exposure to infections. Our findings emphasize that we should avoid extrapolating results from high-income countries to other contexts. Still, they do not solve the ethical dilemma of vaccine prioritization, but highlight the complexity of the question that decision makers face.”

Original Publication

Pifarré I Arolas, H., Acosta, E., Myrskylä, M.: Optimal vaccination age varies across countries. PNAS (2021). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2105987118

+++June+++

June 7, 2021

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

© MPIDR

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+++

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+++

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?

© MPIDR

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?

© MPIDR

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+++

March 26, 2021

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

© MPIDR

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

humanfertility.org

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

humanfertility.org

STFF Visualizing Tool

mpidr.shinyapps.io/stfertility/

 

March 8, 2021

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

© MPIDR/Wilhelm

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

Shinyapps.io 

March 3, 2021

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

© 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+++

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.