Estimates from 31 countries show the significant impact of COVID-19 excess mortality on the incidence of family bereavement

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Jun 28;119(26):e2202686119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2202686119. Epub 2022 Jun 23.


Excess mortality associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has led many to experience the loss of family members, with significant negative outcomes. We quantify the extent to which these population-wide rates of kin loss represent a departure from levels expected in the absence of COVID-19 excess mortality and consider which demographic groups are most likely to be affected. Results for biological kin in 31 countries indicate dramatic increases in excess kin loss associated with excess mortality and follow a generational pattern consistent with COVID-19 mortality risk by age. During periods of high excess mortality, the number of younger individuals losing a grandparent increased by up to 845 per 100,000, or 1.2 times expected levels (for individuals aged 30 to 44 y in the United Kingdom in April 2020), while the number of older individuals losing a sibling increased by up to 511 per 100,000 or 1.15 times (for individuals aged 65 y and over in Poland in November 2020). Our monthly multicountry estimates of excess kin loss complement existing point estimates of the number of individuals bereaved by COVID-19 mortality [Verdery et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 117, 17695-17701 (2020); Kidman et al., JAMA Pediatr. 175, 745-746 (2021); Hillis et al., Lancet 398, 391-402 (2021)] and highlight the role of heterogeneous excess mortality in shaping country experiences.

Keywords: COVID-19; bereavement; excess mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bereavement*
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / mortality
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology