Cause-specific mortality in Korea during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic

Jinwook Bahk, Kyunghee Jung-Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to examine the trends in total mortality between 1998 and 2020 and to compare the changes in a wide range of detailed causes of death between 2020 (i.e., during the coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19] pandemic) and the previous year in Korea. METHODS: We used registered population and mortality data for the years 1998-2020 obtained from Statistics Korea. The age-standardized all-cause mortality rate and the annual percent change between 1998 and 2020 were determined. The rate ratio and rate difference of the age-standardized mortality rate between 2019 and 2020 were calculated. RESULTS: The age-standardized all-cause mortality rate in Korea has been on a downward trend since 1998, and the decline continued in 2020. In 2020, 950 people died from COVID-19, accounting for 0.3% of all deaths. Mortality decreased for most causes of death; however, the number of deaths attributed to sepsis and aspiration pneumonia increased between 2019 and 2020 for both men and women. Age-specific mortality rates decreased or remained stable between 2019 and 2020 for all age groups, except women aged 25-29. This increase was mainly attributed to a higher number of suicide deaths. CONCLUSIONS: This study shed light on the issues of sepsis and aspiration pneumonia despite the successful response to COVID-19 in Korea in 2020. Cases of death from sepsis and aspiration pneumonia should be identified and monitored. In addition, it is necessary to develop a proactive policy to address suicide among young people, especially young women.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022110
JournalEpidemiology and health
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Korean Society of Epidemiology.


  • COVID-19
  • Cause of death
  • Mortality


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