We saw a lot of deaths in 2020

An article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune which you can access here was headlined, “U.S. overdose deaths hit a record 93,000 in pandemic last year”.  The article went on to say that the calendar year 2020 saw a record number of deaths due to drug overdoses in the year. . . an increase of 29% over the calendar year total of about 72,000 in 2019.

Combining that number with the number of deaths due to Covid-19 prompted me to search for exactly how many deaths there were in the United States in 2020.  This article from USA Facts seems to answer the question with a number of 3,427,321 and that is comparable to their 2019 total of 2,854,838. . . . which measures out to and additional 572,483 deaths in the United States. . . .an increase of 20.0% in one year.

To put that in perspective, the estimated death rate for 2020 from the Census Bureau using those numbers equates to a death rate in the U.S. of 10.4 deaths per 1,000 people — the highest death rate since America’s involvement in World War II in 1943.  Earlier estimates by the Census Bureau in 2017 did not expect the United States to reach 3.4 million deaths until 2035.

Here’s some interesting facts from those articles:

  • Covid-19 killed 356,000 Americans in 2020
  • Heart Disease, however, was responsible for 705,000 deaths and Cancer was responsible for 609,000 deaths
  • Deaths in 2020 were above average for every age group except the under 25 years of age grouping
  • The CDC estimates that “flu related” deaths dropped about 35% from 34,000 deaths to 22,000 in the 2019-2020 flu season.

When it comes to the overdose death rise, the article mentions that “there is no evidence that more Americans started using drugs last year. Rather, the increased deaths most likely were people who had already been struggling with addiction. . . . “.

Shannon Monnat, an associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University is quoted in the article as such, ‘What’s really driving the surge in overdoses is this increasingly poisoned drug supply. Nearly all of this increase is fentanyl contamination in some way. Heroin is contaminated. Cocaine is contaminated. Methamphetamine is contaminated.”

The article also points out that “lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions isolated those with drug addictions and made treatment harder to get.”

The article also points out that the 93,000 overdose deaths is staggering when taken in the historical context.  For instance it is pointed out that “According to the CDC, there were fewer than 7,200 total U.S. overdose deaths reported in 1970, when a heroin epidemic was raging in U.S. cities. There were about 9,000 in 1988, around the height of the crack epidemic.”

Finally, the article says that “The proliferation of fentanyl is one reason some experts do not expect any substantial decline in drug overdose deaths this year.”

Funeral Director Daily take:  These are sobering statistics for certain.  Being a front-line funeral director for over 35 years I’ve had my share of arrangements with families who have tragically lost loved ones.  The emotional toll it takes on those in the profession can be quite severe.  Especially after a year like 2020 I would encourage each and every funeral home employee to visit with your colleagues and make sure all is okay.  And, funeral home owners and managers make sure that you can provide all things possible to make sure that somebody is taking care of the caretakers.

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