Covid-19 leading death cause in Brussels in 2020, but not in Belgium

Covid-19 leading death cause in Brussels in 2020, but not in Belgium
A Covid-19 patient is treated inside the Intensive Care unit. Credit: Belga/ Benoit Doppagne

The Covid-19 health crisis was the third leading cause of death in Belgium in 2020, however, in the Brussels-Capital Region, it was the main cause, accounting for almost 23% of deaths.

During the first year of the pandemic, 22,012 people died of Covid-19 across the entire country, making it responsible for 17.4% of deaths, and the third leading cause of a person passing away, according to Statbel. In Brussels, the order was different.

"In the Brussels-Capital Region, Covid-19 was the leading cause of death, accounting for 2,512 deaths, or 22.9%," a Statbel report read. Deaths caused by tumours and as a result of cardiovascular diseases were in second and third place, accounting for 18% and 17% of all death, respectively.

The first death as a result of the virus in Belgium was recorded in March 2020, when the initial wave of infection started, which was followed by a peak in mortality. A quarter of all the Covid-19 deaths were recorded in the last week of March and the first weeks of April.

A second peak was recorded in the months of October and November when a further 4,395 deaths or one-fifth of all deaths occurred.

Statbel's data confirmed that people who died from the virus were generally older, with a high concentration in the age groups of 75 years and older, while slightly more women died as a result of Covid-19 than men in 2020.

While the highest number of Covid-19 deaths was observed in the Flemish Region (almost half of all these deaths were recorded here), the mortality rate was highest in Wallonia when taking into account population size.

Other leading causes

As was the case in 2019, the leading cause of death in Belgium was tumours, accounting for 21.5% of all deaths, while 26,289 people in the country died of cardiovascular disease (20.7%, a limited decrease compared to figures recorded in 2019). Men are most likely to die from tumours, while cardiovascular diseases are most lethal for women.

The number of suicides remarkably remained stable during the first year of the pandemic. A total of 1,732 people in the country died as a result of suicide, in line with the number of deaths in 2019.

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"Based on this data, the pandemic does not seem to have had an impact on the number of suicides. However, it is important to interpret these figures with caution. Suicide is a complex phenomenon, and several factors can lead to underreporting, such as when the intention is unclear or misinterpreted," Statbel concluded.

Those in need of a listening ear or with any questions about suicide can contact the Suicide Line anonymously on the toll-free number 1813 or at in Dutch, at 0800 32 123 in French, or at 02 648 40 14 in English.

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