Working Paper: Exceptionally Many Vulnerable – 'Dry Tinder' – in Sweden Prior to COVID-19

20 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2020 Last revised: 7 Oct 2020

Date Written: October 6, 2020


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. The results are robust to different specifications of the expected mortality and the “dry tinder”-stock.

My results show that a large share of the excess mortality in Sweden in April 2020 may be partially explained by a vulnerable, elderly population due to very mild flu seasons in 18/19 and 19/20 as well as very few deaths during the 2019 summer compared to earlier years and compared to other Nordic countries.

My results illustrate – and I cannot stress this enough – that plain coincidences may be important when understanding the COVID-19-death toll in a country compared to national lockdown policies.

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: Dry tinder, COVID-19

Suggested Citation

Herby, Jonas, Working Paper: Exceptionally Many Vulnerable – 'Dry Tinder' – in Sweden Prior to COVID-19 (October 6, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Jonas Herby (Contact Author)

CEPOS ( email )

Landgreven 3.3
Copenhagen, 1301
27282748 (Phone)

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