Journal Article

Excess mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic in Guatemala

Martinez-Folgar, K., Alburez-Gutierrez, D., Paniagua-Avila, A., Ramirez-Zea, M., Bilal, U.
American Journal of Public Health, 111:10, 1839–1846 (2021)
Open Access


Objectives. To describe excess mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic in Guatemala during 2020 by week, age, sex, and place of death.

Methods. We used mortality data from 2015 to 2020, gathered through the vital registration system of Guatemala. We calculated weekly mortality rates, overall and stratified by age, sex, and place of death. We fitted a generalized additive model to calculate excess deaths, adjusting for seasonality and secular trends and compared excess deaths to the official COVID-19 mortality count.

Results. We found an initial decline of 26% in mortality rates during the first weeks of the pandemic in 2020, compared with 2015 to 2019. These declines were sustained through October 2020 for the population younger than 20 years and for deaths in public spaces and returned to normal from July onward in the population aged 20 to 39 years. We found a peak of 73% excess mortality in mid-July, especially in the population aged 40 years or older. We estimated a total of 8036 excess deaths (95% confidence interval = 7935, 8137) in 2020, 46% higher than the official COVID-19 mortality count.

Conclusions. The extent of this health crisis is underestimated when COVID-19 confirmed death counts are used. 

Keywords: Guatemala, death reporting, excess mortality, health policy
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