COVID-19 and excess mortality in Russia: Regional estimates of life expectancy losses in 2020 and excess deaths in 2021

PLoS One. 2022 Nov 2;17(11):e0275967. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0275967. eCollection 2022.


Accurately counting the human cost of the COVID-19 at both the national and regional level is a policy priority. The Russian Federation currently reports one of the higher COVID-19 mortality rates in the world; but estimates of mortality differ significantly. Using a statistical method accounting for changes in the population age structure, we present the first national and regional estimates of excess mortality for 2021; calculations of excess mortality by age, gender, and urban/rural status for 2020; and mean remaining years of life expectancy lost at the regional level. We estimate that there were 351,158 excess deaths in 2020 and 678,022 in 2021 in the Russian Federation; and, in 2020, around 2.0 years of life expectancy lost. While the Russian Federation exhibits very high levels of excess mortality compared to other countries, there is a wide degree of regional variation: in 2021, excess deaths expressed as a percentage of expected deaths at the regional level range from 27% to 52%. Life expectancy loss is generally greater for males; while excess mortality is greater in urban areas. For Russia as whole, an average person who died due to the pandemic in 2020 would have otherwise lived for a further 14 more years (and as high as 18 years in some regions), disproving the widely held view that excess mortality during the pandemic period was concentrated among those with few years of life remaining-especially for females. At a regional level, less densely populated, more remote regions, rural regions appear to have fared better regarding excess mortality and life expectancy loss-however, a part of this differential could be owing to measurement issues. The calculations demonstrate more clearly the true degree of the human cost of the pandemic in the Russian Federation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

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

Grants and funding

This work was supported by a joint the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) project, "Demographic consequences of COVID-19 for short and long term population dynamics in Russia and its regions” [20-510-82002].