Norway registers highest number of overdose deaths in 20 years

Death - dead - suicidePhoto: Amin Moshrefi / Unsplash

Not since 2001 have so many people died of overdoses in Norway. Last year, 324 overdose deaths were registered in Norway, according to figures from the National Institute of Public Health’s (FHI) cause-of-death register.

It is also the first time since 2004 that the number has been over 300, according to the FHI. In the period from 2010 to 2020, the number of drug-induced deaths varied around an average of 271 per year.

Senior researcher Linn Gjersing in the FHI’s department for drugs and tobacco points out two things in particular that differentiate 2020 from previous years: more potent heroin and restrictions in connection with the pandemic.

“In 2020, many municipalities had to introduce extensive restrictions and closures as a result of the corona situation. These restrictions have probably also affected people who are at risk of drug-induced deaths,” Gjersing said.

No sign of increased incidence of suicide

Many have feared that the suicide rate would increase in 2020, but the cause-of-death statistics show no signs of an increased incidence of suicide during the pandemic.

A total of 639 suicides were registered in 2020, compared with 652 in 2019 and 674 in 2018.

“It will probably surprise many that no increase in suicide was observed during the pandemic, but the same pattern with either stable numbers or a tendency to fewer suicides in the first year of the pandemic has also been seen in many other countries, it is natural to compare us,” researcher Kim Stene-Larsen in the FHI’s department for mental health and suicide said.

459 corona-related deaths

During the pandemic year 2020, 459 corona-related deaths were registered in Norway. Out of the total, 415 of them are registered with COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death.

This means that, for these deaths, COVID-19 is considered the most important factor leading to death, without being able to say anything about how much other causes have contributed to the death. The share corresponds with the figures for March-May 2020, which were published in September.

Cancer the most common cause of death

The FHI’s cause-of-death register shows that cancer is still the most common cause of death in the country. A total of 10,809 people died of cancer last year. The death rate from cancer has fallen by around 16% in the last ten years.

Cardiovascular disease, which was the most common cause of death until 2017, is number two on the list with 9,513 deaths, which is 205 fewer than in 2019.

The fact that fewer and fewer people are dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease indicates a beneficial effect of lifestyle changes, prevention, and treatment. Changed smoking habits have probably contributed to reduced mortality from both cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

Last year, there was a total of 40,534 deaths in Norway.

Women live longer

The figures also show that women live longer than men. In 2020, the average age at death was 82.2 years for women and 76.8 years for men. 

Life expectancy for women is now 84.9 years, while for men, it is 81.5 years. In the last ten years (from 2011 to 2020), life expectancy at birth has increased by two years, or almost 2.5 months for each year on average.

Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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