Mortality in Switzerland in 2021

PLoS One. 2022 Sep 9;17(9):e0274295. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0274295. eCollection 2022.


Objective: To analyze mortality trends in Switzerland in 2021, the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: Using data from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, we compared mortality in Switzerland in 2021 with that of previous years in terms of standardized weekly deaths, standardized (annual) mortality rates (overall and stratified by age and sex) and life expectancy. The latter is a well-known demographic concept defining the average lifespan of a hypothetical cohort living and dying according to the mortality rates of a given year.

Results: After a favorable first half of the year and a fairly standard second half in terms of mortality in Switzerland, the year 2021 ended with a wave of deaths of moderate intensity related to the 5th wave of COVID-19. Overall, and after a notable increase in mortality in 2020 (+9.2%, 95%CI: +8.0%; +10.3%, compared to 2019, and +5.1%, 95%CI: +4.3%; +6.0%, compared to 2015-19), the pre-pandemic mortality level was approximately recovered in 2021 (+0.8%, 95%CI: -0.3%; +0.8%, compared to 2019, and -2.9%, 95%CI: -3.7%; -2.2%, compared to 2015-19). Life expectancy, after declining by 10 months for men and 6 months for women in 2020 (i.e. men would have lost 10 months and women 6 months had they lived their entire lives with COVID-19 as it was in 2020), returned in 2021 to 2019 levels for women (85.6 years) and regained 2018 levels for men (81.6 years, still -0.3 years from 2019). The age group responsible for the small remaining loss for men was the 50-70 age group, which had similar mortality in 2020 and 2021.

Conclusions: The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic in Switzerland was characterized by an approximate return to pre-pandemic mortality levels, with a faster recovery for women than for men with respect to 2020.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy
  • Male
  • Mortality
  • Pandemics
  • Switzerland / epidemiology

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.