Mortality rates in England and Wales experienced a “marked decrease” last year, though Covid-19 remained the leading cause of death, new analysis shows.
There were 990.7 deaths per 100,000 people in 2021, down from 1,048.3 in 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The figures are a better measure of mortality than the crude number of deaths as they account for population size and age structure.
Mortality rates for both males and females “decreased significantly” year-on-year, the ONS said.
The age-standardised rate for females stood at 849.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2021, down 5% from 894.2 in 2020.
Males saw an even larger percentage fall, down 6.3% from 1,236.7 per 100,000 to 1,159.3.
Mortality rates for both sexes in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, hit their highest level since 2008.
The fall in figures for 2021 is likely to reflect the impact of the vaccination programme, which was rolled out from the start of the year and helped weaken the link between infection, serious illness and death.
Despite this drop, rates remained high compared to other years in the preceding decade.
The mortality rate for males in 2021 was the second highest since 2012, while for females it was the second highest since 2015.
Covid-19 remained the leading cause of death in England and Wales last year, as it was in 2020.
The virus was listed as the leading cause in 67,350 deaths registered in 2021, down from 73,766 the previous year.
Deaths due to Covid-19 accounted for 11.5% of all deaths registered last year, compared with 12.1% the previous year.
The second leading cause of death in 2021 was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (61,250 deaths, or 10.4% of the total), and the third was ischaemic heart diseases (56,960 or 9.7%).
The number of deaths involving coronavirus in 2021 – where Covid-19 was mentioned anywhere on the death certificate – was 77,727.
The majority (86.6%) of these deaths had Covid-19 as the underlying cause, with the remainder mentioning coronavirus as a contributory factor.
Blackpool had the highest overall mortality rate for males among local authorities in England in 2021, at 1,711.3 deaths per 100,000, while Westminster had the lowest, at 706.9 per 100,000.
The rate for females was highest in Middlesbrough (1,218.4 per 100,000) and lowest in Westminster (545.6), excluding the City of London (387.8) due to its small population size.
In Wales, Neath Port Talbot had the highest overall age-standardised rate for males, at 1,494.4 deaths per 100,000, while Monmouthshire had the lowest, at 995 per 100,000.
For females, the highest rate was in Blaenau Gwent (1,190.2) and the lowest was in Ceredigion (738.9).