Journal Article

Explaining regional differences in mortality during the first wave of COVID-19 in Italy

Basellini, U., Camarda, C. G.
Population Studies, 76:1, 99–118 (2022)
Open Access


Italy was hit harshly by the Covid-19 pandemic, registering more than 35,000 Covid-19 deaths between February and July 2020. During this first wave of the epidemic, the virus spread unequally across the country, with northern regions witnessing more cases and deaths. We investigate demographic and socio-economic factors contributing to the diverse regional impact of the virus during the first wave. Using generalized additive mixed models, we find that Covid-19 mortality at regional level is negatively associated with the degree of intergenerational co-residence, number of intensive care unit beds per capita, and delay in the outbreak of the epidemic. Conversely, we do not find strong associations for several variables highlighted in recent literature, such as population density or the share of the population who are older or have at least one chronic disease. Our results underscore the importance of context-specific analysis for the study of a pandemic.

Keywords: Italy, epidemics, mortality, smoothing, socio-economic conditions
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.