The excess mortality rate was higher in 2022 than at the height of the Covid pandemic, new data from national statistics body Insee shows.
The excess mortality rate is the number of deaths that occur above the expected number over a given period.
There were 675,000 deaths in France last year, 53,800 more than expected in a regular, pre-Covid year. The excess mortality rate was 42,700 in 2021, and 48,400 in 2020.
This is despite the fact that fewer people died with Covid in 2022 (38,300) than in 2021 (59,100), meaning the rise is due to deaths from other causes.
What caused excess deaths last year?
Insee said in its report: “First of all, the year 2022, unusually, saw two flu episodes: a first, late epidemic in March-April, and a second, early one in December, whereas flu was almost non-existent in 2021.
“Furthermore, heatwaves brought about more deaths in 2022 (2,800 all causes included) than in 2021 (200).
“High temperatures throughout much of the summer also led to deaths outside of heatwaves.”
Another factor cited behind excess deaths over the last two years is indirect effects of the pandemic, such as operations that were delayed, and a decrease in screening for other illnesses in 2020.
Excess mortality rates remained high throughout the EU last year, but more recent data from Eurostat shows a steep fall in 2023 – 0.3% in March, compared to 6.7% in March 2022, for example.
Covid situation in France
The number of Covid cases in France, meanwhile, has continued to fall in recent months.
The average daily number of new confirmed cases was 1,106 as of June 29, down 22% compared to the previous week.
Experts warn that the number of cases is most likely under-estimated as the rates of testing have fallen dramatically.
France stopped fully reimbursing tests in March, except for vulnerable groups, such as over-65s, minors, and those with chronic illnesses.
Vaccination booster campaign from the autumn
Global attention has recently turned to the Omicron sub-variant known as Arcturus, which is behind a rise in cases in India since the start of the year, with a small number of cases detected in France.
It is believed to be more contagious than previous variants but does not appear to be more severe.
The last Covid vaccine booster campaign for vulnerable groups, including people aged 80 and above, those who are immunosuppressed, or people in care homes, ended on June 16.
A new campaign will be organised from the autumn.