Mortality Displacement: Vulnerable 'Dry Tinder' Elders in Sweden Prior to COVID-19 May Partially Account for Excess Deaths

20 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2020 Last revised: 26 May 2022

Date Written: November 19, 2020

Abstract

What explains the large differences in death tolls among the Nordic countries? Using monthly all-cause death tolls for Denmark, Sweden and Finland from January 1946 (and Norway from January 2000) to June 2020, I estimate the stock of vulnerable elderly with a high mortality risk – “dry tinder” – in each country primo each month from January 1960 to April 2020. My calculations show that the stock of “dry tinder” in Sweden was very large compared to other Nordic countries going into the COVID-19-pandemic early April and large even in a historical perspective. Excess mortality in Sweden in April 2020 is widely attributed to faulty lockdown policies, and the assumption that once an effective lockdown is in place, it saves many lives. Recent research, however, challenges this assumption, and my results suggest a counter narrative, that a larger stock of “dry tinder”, at least in part, can explain the excess death in Sweden compared to Denmark, Finland and Norway. My results illustrate – and I cannot stress this enough – that there are other important differences between countries than national lockdown policies which are important when understanding the COVID-19-death toll across countries.

Note: Funding: I work for a libertarian think tank in Denmark. The funding is mostly undisclosed - even for employees - except for a few charitable foundations.

Conflict of Interest: None.

Keywords: Mortality displacement, frail elders, dry tinder, COVID-19

Suggested Citation

Herby, Jonas, Mortality Displacement: Vulnerable 'Dry Tinder' Elders in Sweden Prior to COVID-19 May Partially Account for Excess Deaths (November 19, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3702595 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3702595

Jonas Herby (Contact Author)

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Landgreven 3.3
Copenhagen, 1301
Denmark
27282748 (Phone)

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