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UK Column. The Numbers Don’t Lie: Excess Deaths—Ed Dowd

Exceptionally clear analyses on the growing numbers of excess deaths in the UK & US by Ed Dowd with questions and contributions from Debi Evans and Cheryl Grainger.

Actuaries' tables from US life insurance companies
British National Health Service sickness absence rates
British excess death rates
UK PIP (British disability benefit recipients data)
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Government statisticians solve excess deaths problem - change the denominator.

Those baby boomers must have started dying when the vaccine rollout started.

This seems an unjustifyable change to make as it won’t be applied to the previous period - the ‘base’ - thereby destroys the evidence of harm.

It’s at odds with the actuarial reports so won’t hide the increase. I guess it could save the government’s legal liability, or at least give them a defense against the charge of recklessness, albeit a thin one.

Also the suggestion of baby-boomers coming of age to die would not explain why that age is under 60.


21/2/24 Government Change in How Excess Deaths Are Calculated Results in 65 Percent Drop

Some statisticians say the reforms simply account for an ageing population but others suggest it is a convenient way to lower the unexplained death rate.

By Rachel Roberts

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced a change in how it calculates excess death rates, leading to a reduction of 65 percent in last year’s figure.

The ONS has now revised the number of excess deaths in 2023 from 31,442 to 10,994 using its new method, which it said has been implemented to account for changing demographics, with the population growing through immigration and ageing as the post-war generation of “baby boomers” continues to pass the age of 70.

The high mortality rate over the past two years has led to debates in Parliament and calls for an inquiry as to why excess deaths in younger age groups had reached 12–13 percent, with the overall excess death rate standing at around 6 percent using the old method of calculation.

Previously, figures were calculated based on how deaths compared to the five-year average, without taking into account changes in population.

Professor Norman Fenton, a mathematician at Queen Mary University London, has repeatedly called for an investigation into excess deaths and has asked the ONS to provide data sets to settle the question of whether or not the COVID-19 jabs are a driver of the deaths and to determine if they saved more lives than they took, as the government claims.

‘The Easiest Way to Manipulate Results’

He said on social media platform X that the ONS has been “massively underestimating” the population for years because of factors including illegal immigration, and that by deciding to account for those previously unaccounted for people, this would be an effective way to suddenly lower the excess death rates.

He said: “The biggest problem with excess deaths estimates - and the easiest way to manipulate the results - relates to ‘unknown’ population changes.

“On the assumption that the deaths of even previously unaccounted for people do get registered, this means that the baseline number of deaths per 100,000 people has been consistently overestimated because the denominator is underestimated.

“If you suddenly decide (as I believe the ONS did recently) that the population is bigger than you thought it was and apply that new population total only to the recent excess deaths estimates then it is inevitable you will revise excess death numbers downward.”

Mr. Fenton added that he has always said that excess deaths are a “problematic measure.”

“There’s no agreed method for establishing baselines or incorporating demographic changes. Results [are] highly sensitive to small changes in modelling assumptions; Governments exploit this for political purposes, e.g. ONS here.”

Oldest ‘Baby Boomers’ Reaching Life Expectancy

Jamie Jenkins, a former ONS statistician, said on X that the numbers used by the body had been “unfit for purpose for a while.”

“The old method weren’t [sic] great. We got thousands of people who were born after the second world war, known as the baby boomers, and a massive bulge in the population, hitting around life expectancy.

“So if you count how many deaths you see at the moment versus, say an average of five years before the pandemic, you get massive excess, mainly among older people. You need to adjust for this demographic shift.”

He said that many people posting online about excess deaths “don’t take into account this significant population boom that’s now dying.”

But he added that even when the ageing demographics were accounted for, “there are still higher than expected deaths among younger age groups.”

He said that deaths in the 35–54 age group are 10 percent higher than expected based on pre-COVID-19 pandemic death rates and called for analysis of patients’ medical records and death certificates to help get to the bottom of the causes.

Jason Oke, a statistician at Oxford University, welcomed the change in methodology as “long overdue,” and said the figure had been overestimated both during the COVID-19 era and since, with the public becoming more interested in the figure.

He said in a statement: “The excess death statistic rose from relative obscurity to prominence during the pandemic, putting it firmly in the public consciousness.

“This however also exposed the flaws in the way it had been calculated – using historic averages – taking no account of prevailing trends or changes in the population. As a result, excess deaths were overestimated before, during and after the pandemic.

“Later corrections, intended to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, served only to accentuate the bias, leading to significant overestimation of the number of excess deaths in the post-pandemic period.”

He added a note of caution, saying the new method came at a cost of “losing some of the transparency and simplicity of the previous method,” and said that the ONS should “continue to evaluate its performance over time to ensure it does track population mortality accurately.”

Number of Deaths in Lockdown Era Also Revised Down

Sir David Spiegelhalter, emeritus professor of statistics at the University of Cambridge, said in a statement there is no “correct” method for assessing excess deaths, but welcomed the new “solid and model-based” methodology, which he said was in contrast to the “rather ad-hoc method” used before.

He said the new method “produces rather different, but more reasonable, pre-Covid-19 estimates, although the estimates for the Covid-19 period are not changed substantially.”

“This is world-leading methodology, setting an appropriately high standard for national statistics.”

Daniel Ayoubkhani, head of health statistics at the ONS, said in a statement: “Using our new methodology, today’s release shows tragically that there were an estimated 11,000 excess deaths in 2023. This is lower than our previous estimate because our new method accounts for the growth and ageing of the population.

“These are key factors in understanding how many deaths we would expect to see and whether the actual number of deaths is below, or above, this estimate.”

He said the new figures showed there were actually negative excess deaths in the last few months of 2023, meaning fewer deaths than average were being registered.

“The new method has also revised down the number of excess deaths during the first pandemic year, from 84,064 to 76,412. The highest number of excess deaths estimated by the new method over the nine years before the Covid-19 pandemic is 30,858 in 2015.”

The new figures are at odds with those produced by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries Continuous Mortality Investigation, which found the excess deaths to be 22,000 when adjusted for the ageing population, which is more than double the ONS revised figure.

The ONS said it was using a different baseline from that of the institute.

Following concerns raised repeatedly by MP Andrew Bridgen in the House of Commons, the Conservative peer Lord Strathcarran led a debate on excess deaths in the House of Lords last November, calling on the COVID Inquiry to properly investigate the apparent surge in younger people dying unexpectedly.

The government minister Lord Evans said in response that various factors could explain the excess deaths, including flu, the impact of COVID-19, and continued prevalence of conditions such as cardiovascular

Feb 21, 2024

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Hi @Evvy_dense - this from Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson:


Why has the ONS waited until now to change its excess death figures?




22 FEB 2024
"Picture of Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson

The Office for National Statistics has revised its estimate of the number of excess deaths in the UK last year. At 10,994, the new number is two-thirds lower than the previous figure of 31,442. Excess deaths in the first year of the pandemic have also been revised down, from 84,064 to 76,412.

The revised method accounts for population size and ageing trends as opposed to the previous method, which used a five-year average to estimate the number of expected deaths in a year.

This new approach is fine and long overdue. Indeed, in the pandemic we were concerned with the use of historical averages in estimating excess deaths, particularly as it tended to underestimate how many deaths should be expected in a particular year. The ONS’s estimates of excess deaths at the height of the pandemic were therefore likely to have been higher than they should have been, helping to drive the fear and panic that led to the UK being plunged into a series of deeply restrictive lockdowns.

So it is clearly good that the ONS has acted to improve the quality of its data. But there are signs that further improvements could still be made. While the difference in the total number of recorded deaths between 2020 and 2023 is 27,629, for example, the difference in excess deaths between these years is more than double at 65,418, suggesting that something is amiss with the new estimates.

Meanwhile, the ONS reports that the differences between the old figures and those generated by the new methodology have “generally” been accounted for by trends in population size, ageing and mortality rates. But that isn’t true for all years. In 2022 and 2023, by far the biggest contributors to the changed figures are lumped together under the category of “other changes”. Quite what’s in this bucket of changes isn’t totally clear, although some of it is to do with the treatment of 2020 data.

Perhaps the most pressing question, however, is why we are only now seeing a serious attempt made to better understand excess deaths. In 2020, these figures were one of the main drivers of lockdown. Where was the urgent need to fix the data then?

We don’t pretend to understand the ONS’s overview of the change to its methods. Given what we know of the problems in Government decision-making, the British public is entitled to a better explanation for the change in methods and its impact. Only a clear explanation will exorcise the ghost of misgovernment.

Other estimates for excess deaths last year remain substantially higher than those produced by the ONS’s new method, and until it is fully understood why, questions will remain outstanding. What are we now meant to believe?

As always, we can trust the evidence. And what we can see in the data is that, since the pandemic, deaths have remained high in all three of the ensuing years – above 650,000 annually across the UK. Compare this with 2011, when just over 550,000 deaths occurred. Changes to the size, age or gender of the population seem unlikely to explain an increase in 100,000 deaths over this period.

It is clear to us that something is not right; while we do not fully understand the ONS’s new model, there have been more deaths than expected since the pandemic.

Last year, the British Heart Foundation reported that, since the onset of the pandemic, “as of June 2023, there have been nearly 100,000 excess deaths in England involving [ischaemic heart disease] or other cardiovascular diseases”. The number of premature deaths from heart disease soared to a 14-year high in the wake of Covid.

Yet the Government appears to lack any appetite for investigating the root causes. In May last year, Esther McVey MP submitted a written question in Parliament, asking the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care if his Department would conduct an investigation into excess deaths.

Back came the response: there were “no plans” to commission such an investigation. Instead, it ran for cover behind the usual waffle of “high flu prevalence” and ongoing Covid “challenges”. In the meantime, we are left with a confusing and complex system for reporting and analysing excess deaths, and a deep sense of doubt as to whether the true numbers and causes will ever be investigated.

Carl Heneghan is director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine. Tom Jefferson is a senior associate tutor at the University of Oxford"



Hi folks, here’s another interesting take from the Off-Guardian:

Rhis could have written the concluding words!

" What was the point?

That’s a good question, we don’t know enough to form a solid conclusion yet – and I haven’t really dived into the numbers or methods to see if there’s any chicanery going on.

But we do know that statistics are a tool for opinion control and narrative management, and when they adjust official measures like this it can be an early warning sign. And by switching from a simple 5-year average to a highly complex multi-faceted model they have given themselves room to maneuver and manipulate the data in general.

It should be noted that the “new method” massively reduced excess mortality in 2019, but barely touched it in 2020, meaning the “pandemic” looks more dramatic.

It’s also possible that they are attempting to stall the appearance of Covid “vaccine” harms by re-jigging the number of excess deaths downwards. Effectively hiding potential vaccine-related deaths by re-labelling them “expected”.

The third option is that it’s laying groundwork for a future event, “the next pandemic” or something similar. By reducing the excess deaths now they can make room to exaggerate excess deaths in the future.

It could be some combination of any or all of these, it could be something we haven’t thought of yet, or it could be nothing at all.

We’ll just have to wait and see."



Hi folks, for those still doubtful about criticising our ONS perhaps this piece from Norman Fenton in November 2022 will put this in context - who knew we had a Statistics Regulator we could complain to ! :


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Hi CJ1. I’d say it’s not so much that they are in doubt, no-one trusts this data. It’s hard to make a concrete criticism without knowing what the ONS are actually doing. That puts establishment figures like Heneghan and Jefferson who likely suspect fiddling on caution. Those under fewer constraints (and illusions) want to blast it to Kingdom Come, but there isn’t a fiddle that’s clear enough for that.

I don’t see this as stemming the tide for very long, as the picture is the same in other countries, that don’t have Tory-ravaged health services. Also of course the fiddling should only be relevant to older age groups.

"Quite what’s in this bucket of changes isn’t totally clear, although some of it is to do with the treatment of 2020 data.

Perhaps the most pressing question, however, is why we are only now seeing a serious attempt made to better understand excess deaths."

H+J would like to demand full details or the full data - and what more timely point can there be than just before it’s bricked in - but that would give away their mistrust. So they snip gently around the whole border, even mumbling that they still think there is a problem.

OffG haven’t dived into the numbers “yet” but without the details of what ONS actually did the calculations they made will not be completely refutable.

It’s a well played coup, other sources will need to take over. There’s still the actuarial data to go on as well.

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Can some smart person explain to us thicko’s:

1 “… in the pandemic we were concerned with the use of historical averages in estimating excess deaths, particularly as it tended to underestimate how many deaths should be expected in a particular year”. How so?

2 “But there are signs that further improvements could still be made” These guys are so smart, why don’t they tell us what ‘the signs’ are?

3 “… suggesting that something is amiss with the new estimates”. I thought ONS figures were based on data, historic data (perhaps not complete due to delays in recording deaths), so I am at a loss to understand how they can be estimates

Oh well. If I was intelligent enough to read the Telegraph, perhaps I would understand these agents of the deep state super intelligent guys.


Hi PatB
1 Maybe because the ‘expected’ number of deaths rises as the population gets bigger. Not sure if that’s a significant amount though.
2 It’s difficult to talk with your boss’s hand halfway over your mouth. I read that as a muted warning, to be scaled up for reality.
3 Increasing use of modelling. The actuaries already adjust for age when comparing different countries/populations, so the comparisons are meaningful. ASMR-age-standardised mortality ratio (I think). But that’s not the standard ONS data AFAIK.
They say they are introducing modelling changes due to baby-boomers and immigration that are causing the excess deaths.
But once you introduce modelling nobody can see what you’re doing or how you’re doing it.

Modelling is a handy response to a crisis. It doesn’t even need to be crooked to be manipulated from above. You can fiddle with different models then your boss picks the one the politicians will like. We’ve seen with Neil Ferguson and the College of the Imperialists that modellers can function like tailors.


Hi @Evvy_dense , we are told that the most important factor in recent years relating to population is immigration. At the same time we hear stories of immigrants being largely young adult males - high Ukraine immigrants being young male adults. Given these two points how would these changes in population contribute to the number of deaths in the UK - are they all dying from accidents or suicide, afaik the stats seem to suggest the high numbers are blood and heart related, although turbo cancers are appearing in the young adult population.
So why adjust for population size changes in UK numbers over the last few years when trying to work out the estimate of expected deaths for the current year. This would be different if most of the immigrants were in their late 70’s or 80’s - but afaik they are not!

To say there are more baby-boomers in their mid and late 70’s and 80’s is a well known fact which could affect expected mortality rates but which are easily pulled of actuarial tables used by the insurance industry - a 5 minute job for a decent spreadsheet! You don’t need to pull total UK population changes into the already complex modelling used by the ONS.

If one wants to use the numbers to compare with other nations then create another database, don’t mess about with the UK excess mortality data to bring in data that should barely change from year to year.

I saw an ONS female presenter literally shrugging off criticism of excess deaths saying something like ~ well these are only estimates, the ONS’ estimate is just their view! Nothing to see here!



Good points @CJ1, agree with them all. The excuses don’t seem to make logical sense.


Hi @Evvy_dense and @CJ1

Ed Dowd’s (or more accurately Phinance Technologies) data allows one to calculate excess deaths both as the ONS would (disregarding population changes) or by taking these into account. I haven’t done a deep dive into these but with my cynicism about anything official, I’ll bet the modified ONS figures don’t match up with those of Phinance Technologies.


thnks @PatB I rate his stuff but I haven’t been able to get very far - stats are not my thing!

I had also been looking at ed dowd to see if he had analysed the ONS changes but maybe too soon.

I still wonder why death rates are so low in 2019.

Given my take on the no virus - how did they get an extra 128,000 deaths from this mythical virus - we know all the flu numbers must have gone into the C bucket, we know masses were killed with medazalam and iatrogenic madness, did they also push all pneumonias and anything respiratory in there too, what else? Since we know all C tests were useless, all labelling as C after these “tests” would have been bogus, so there’s another lump. Are they counting jab deaths in 2021 to beef up “C” numbers?

We know they could not create “C” deaths in the under 50’s and few in the under 70’s - most labels were slapped onto those with other life threatening diseases in the over 70’s in the main, what else are we missing?

I thought 2020 wasn’t really bad in overall deaths compared to previous 5 years so why treat this year differently leaving it out of the guestimates for the excess death baseline calcs?

What’s the deal with age standardization and why EU 2013 numbers and what adjustments?

I wonder what would happen if the ONS numbers had to remove all mortality labels related to so-called viruses but leave in the jab damage?

So many questions and so few experts looking at them!

Are these ONS changes going to make virus X easier to sell in some way?


Just after my cynic side saying I wouldn’t trust the ONS, here is Ed Dowd (and others) presenting to a hearing called by a US senator. It’s a short bit around 37 minutes but he he refers to the ONS changes and says something like the changes will be sure to reduce the excess death figures [as if by a magic wave of the wand, some of those excess deaths evaporate].

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