Visualising covid-19 in experience data

(Nov 1, 2020)

As 2020 edges to a close, life-office actuaries need to set mortality bases for year-end valuations.  An obvious question is what impact the covid-19 pandemic has had on the mortality experience of their portfolio?  One problem is that traditional actuarial analysis was often done on the basis of annual rates, whereas the initial covid-19 shock was delivered over a period of a couple of months in early 2020 in Europe.  Clearly one cannot properly assess the extent of such a short-term shock with annual rates, so what alternatives are available?

In an earlier blog, I defined a non-parametric estimator of short-term patterns in mortality.  The first step is to define a non-parametric estimator for the integrated…

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Tags: mortality shock, coronavirus

The renewed importance of place

(May 5, 2020)

In my previous blog I showed how suddenly the excess deaths rose in Scotland and England & Wales due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  I plotted the excess weekly mortality in two separate graphs because the two countries had such a similar experience that a single figure would have looked muddled.  One might be tempted to conclude that all parts of the UK are equally affected, but this is very far from the case, as Figure 1 shows.

Figure 1. Deaths in Weeks 1-16 in England & Wales in 2020 as percentage of average in 2015-2019. Source: own calculations using data from ONS (2020).

The increase in mortality Figure 1 could justifiably be described as staggering: in the week to 17th April deaths in London were running…

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Tags: coronavirus, mortality

A week is a long time in a pandemic

(Apr 23, 2020)

According to British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, "a week is a long time in politics". As with politics, so also with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We know from China and Italy of the strong link between COVID-19 mortality and age, and we know from Italy that males have two and three times the mortality rate of females. Now the weekly death counts in England & Wales (Figure 1) and Scotland (Figure 2) show how suddenly mortality jumped in Week 14 due to the SARS-Cov-2 virus.

Figure 1. Deaths in Weeks 1-15 in England & Wales in 2020 as percentage of average in 2015-2019. Source: own calculations using data from ONS (2020b).

Figure 2. Deaths in Weeks 1-16 in Scotland in 2020 as percentage of average in 2015-2019.…

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Tags: coronavirus, mortality

COVID-19 mortality and sex

(Apr 4, 2020)

I recently looked at the progression of Covid-19 mortality risk with age.  As with all-cause mortality, another risk factor for Covid-19 is biological sex.  In Italy males account for 68.5% of Covid-19 deaths (ISS, 2020), an over-representation repeated in other countries' covid-19 mortality statistics.  This is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Log-odds ratio for mortality of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Italy by age and sex.  Source: own calculations using data from ISS (2020).

Another way of looking at this is relative risk, as shown in Figure 2 (we exclude the rates below age 30 due to small numbers of deaths).

Figure 2. Ratio of male mortality rate to female for confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Italy by age.  Source:…

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Tags: coronavirus, mortality

COVID-19 mortality and age

(Apr 3, 2020)

When faced with a pandemic disease, such as the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, a multi-layered approach is useful.  From an individual perspective, there is a strong analogy with the computing-security concept of defence in depth (see Gavin's blogs on this subject): social distancing reduces your exposure to the virus in the first instance, and hand-washing stops the virus particles you do get from going further.  But what happens when the various counter-measures fail and someone finally catches the virus?  Specifically, what is the mortality rate?

It is tricky to estimate mortality rates during a pandemic.  Part of the problem lies in the numerator: with co-morbidities it is not always clear what the actual…

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Tags: coronavirus, mortality

Separation as a Service

(Mar 27, 2020)

During the current Covid-19 pandemic, and in common with many service providers, we're dealing with support requests from users working at home. This isn't a huge upheaval for us, since we've always been a SaaS provider, and SaaS is intrinsically decentralised. More traditional applications are different: such applications are locally-installed, and evolved in environments where users and systems administrators operated together in employee-dense locations.

At this point in the global crisis, a review of revolutionary medical technologies and treatments is not yet possible. So instead of looking to the future, we consider proven defences from the past. Earlier, Stephen discussed the importance…

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Tags: technology, coronavirus, public health

Wash your hands, live longer

(Mar 17, 2020)

As the coronavirus circles the globe, the only thing spreading faster is disinformation on so-called "social media".  In addition to ridiculous conspiracy theories, quack preventions range from the ineffective to the downright dangerous.  It is worth noting that some of the most effective advice, washing your hands, is available on low-tech posters hanging on the wall.

Knowledge of the link between hand hygiene and mortality pre-dates modern understanding of bacteria and viruses.  Using data and a scientific approach of careful comparison and elimination, Ignaz Semmelweis showed in 1847 that making medical staff wash their hands markedly reduced mortality in a Viennese maternity hospital.  Semmelweis…

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Tags: coronavirus, influenza, hygiene

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