Inverse correlates of COVID-19 mortality across European countries during the first versus subsequent waves release_zwcehdwwy5eerjhyf4sm346c2m

by Leonardo Villani, Roberta Pastorino, Walter Ricciardi, John Ioannidis, Stefania Boccia

Published in BMJ Global Health by BMJ.

2021   e006422


The objectives of the study were to calculate the standardised mortality rates (SMRs) for COVID-19 in European Union/European Economic Area countries plus the UK and Switzerland and to evaluate the correlation between SMRs and selected indicators in the first versus the subsequent waves until 23 June 2021. We used indirect standardisation (using Italy as the reference) to compute SMRs and considered 16 indicators of health and social well-being, health system capacity and COVID-19 response. The highest SMRs were in Belgium, the UK and Spain in the first wave (1.20–1.84) and in Hungary, Czechia and Slovakia in the subsequent waves (2.50–2.69). Human Development Index (HDI), life expectancy, urbanisation and healthcare expenditure had positive correlations with SMR in the first wave (rho=0.30–0.46), but negative correlations (rho=−0.67 to −0.47) in the subsequent waves. Retail/recreation mobility and transit mobility were negatively correlated with SMR in the first wave, while transit mobility was inversely correlated with SMR in the subsequent waves. The first wave hit most hard countries with high HDI, high life expectancy, high urbanisation, high health expenditures and high tourism. This pattern may reflect higher early community seeding and circulation of the virus. Conversely, in the subsequent waves, this pattern was completely inversed: countries with more resources and better health status did better than eastern European countries. While major SMR differences existed across countries in the first wave, these differences largely dissipated by 23 June 2021, with few exceptions.
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