Economic Policy Review ISSN 1313 - 0544

Excess mortality against thousands of arguments

Author: Petar Ganev / 14.01.2022
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According to weekly NSI data on deaths in Bulgaria, nearly 148,000 people have died in 2021. This data is not yet final and will probably undergo a slight upward correction, but nevertheless gives a very good idea of what happened last year. The cause of the high mortality in the country is due to the two waves of excess mortality – mainly March-April and October-November, which follow the pandemic waves. With “regular” mortality rates below 110 thousand per year (in the period of 2009 – 2019) we can conclude that the excessive mortality in 2021 reaches nearly 40 thousand people.

This is the second highest mortality (as an absolute number) in the history of the country. The record was set in 1918, when more than 151,000 people died. In 2021, we were on the verge of passing it over, but in December the tide subsided and excessive mortality dropped. The is clearly seen in the data for mortality in the period of 1888 – 2020, which NSI provided to IME at the end of last year. We publish it here in original and below the data is shown in the graph.


In comparison with previous periods in history, it is important to take into account the differences in the population size. A hundred years ago the population of the country was smaller and accordingly, it is normal that the mortality is lower in absolute numbers. However, the excessive mortality rate last year is clear. In 2021 we have about 22 deaths per 1000 people, against an average levels in previous years of about 15 to 16 people per 1000. We have not reached the levels of 22 or more deaths per 1000 people in the last 100 years. In the period of 1888 – 1920 there are years when the death rate (per 1000 people) was higher – the record is in 1918 again with 32 deaths per 1000 people.

Of course, many factors can be taken into account in such historical comparisons. Not only the population, but also the age structure of the people is different. Nowadays, the demographic structure of the population is deteriorating and the presence of a large proportion of adult population implies higher mortality rates. However, the data for the last two years is clear. Nearly 125,000 deaths in 2020 and 148,000 deaths in 2021 is extremely high and very distinctive from the decade before.