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Five key findings from the 2022 UN Population Prospects

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a significant impact on global population and migration trends.  We know that the confirmed death tol

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a significant impact on global population and migration trends. 

We know that the confirmed death toll from COVID-19 is likely to significantly underestimate the true number of deaths because of limited testing. One way to get a better estimate of the total mortality impact of the pandemic is to look at excess mortality data. We can look at the total number of deaths and compare this to the number we expect to occur in a non-pandemic year.

In its latest population dataset, the UN estimates that in 2020, there were approximately 5 million excess deaths. In 2021, this figure was 10 million. 

This estimate of 15 million excess deaths over 2020 and 2021 is in line with estimates from other organizations. The Economist put its central estimate of excess deaths at 17.6 million. The World Health Organization, which is a UN organization, estimated 14.9 million excess deaths.

These death figures are highly uncertain. But what’s clear is that the number of confirmed deaths – which was just 5.4 million by the end of 2021 – captures just a fraction of the true impact of the pandemic.