Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The COVID-19 Mortality Risk vs. Death by Automobile

Updated May 4, 2020

With the comments made by readers in mind, I wanted to add one thought to this posting.  The author of the study, Dr. John Ioannidis, is simply trying to help us put the actual risk of dying of COVID-19 into a context that is more understandable to all of us.  With governments heavily falling back on the use of fear to keep all of us in line, the more that knowledge that we have, the better we can understand the narrative and the actual impact of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on society.

A study by John P. A. Ioannidis at Stanford Prevention Research Center et al entitled "Population-level COVID-19 mortality risk for non-elderly individuals overall and for non-elderly individuals without underlying diseases in pandemic epicenters" examines the relative risk of dying from COVID-19 in people under the age of 65 and compares this risk to the risk of death in older individuals as well as providing estimates of the absolute risk of COVID-19 death for the entire population.

The authors used data from countries (Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland) and United States states (Louisiana, Michigan and Washington) or major cities (New York City) with at least 250 COVID-19 deaths effective on April 4, 2020.  The death records had to include age which allowed the authors to calculate the number of deaths in people under the age of 65 with no underlying predisposing conditions.  The study then compared the death risk as an equivalent to the death risk associated with driving a motor vehicle.  For motor vehicle death statistics, the authors used data provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the United States and data provided by the International Transport Forum Road Safety Annual Report for 2018 for European nations.

Let's look at their findings.  The authors found the following:

1.) individuals under the age of 65 account for between 5 percent and 9 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the eight European epicentres and approached 30 percent in three of the American hotspots.  

2.) People 65 years and younger had a 34- to 73-fold lower risk of dying from COVID-19 than those 65 years of age and older in Europe and a 13- to 15-fold lower risk of dying from COVID-19 than those 65 years of age and older in New York City, Louisiana and Michigan.

3.) The absolute risk of dying from COVID-19 for people 65 years of age and younger ranged from. 1.7 per million in Germany to 79 per million people in New York City. The absolute risk of dying from COVID-19 for people 80 years of age and older ranged from 1 in 6,000 in Germany to 1 in 420 in Spain.

Here is the absolute risk of dying of COVID-19 for people 65 years of age and younger for all nations/states/cities in the study (in deaths per million people):

Belgium - 11
Germany - 1.7
Italy - 30
Louisiana - 30
Michigan - 18
Netherlands - 6.1
New York City - 79
Portugal - 2.5
Spain - 24
Sweden - 3.3
Switzerland - 5.3
Washington - 4.6

Almost all deaths that took place within the under 65 years of age group occurred between the ages of 40 years and 65 years.

Now let's look at the risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to the risk of dying while driving a motor vehicle.  To calculate the death risk, the authors calculated the following:

"We then divided the estimated miles travelled that correspond to the same death risk by the number of days that have passed since the first COVID-19 death was recorded in each location and until April 4, 2020. The result transforms the average risk of COVID-19 death during the period where COVID-19 deaths occur into an equivalent of miles travelled by car per day."

Here is the absolute risk of dying of COVID-19 for people 65 years of age and younger for all nations/states/cities in the study as miles travelled per day equivalent:

Belgium - 37
Germany - 9
Italy - 48
Louisiana - 88
Michigan - 105
Netherlands - 27
New York City - 415
Portugal - 11
Spain - 57
Sweden - 25
Switzerland - 34
Washington - 11

As you can see, the risk of dying from COVID-19 for a person under the age of 65 is equivalent to the risk of driving a distance of between 9 and 415 miles by car per day during the COVID-19 fatality season.  Most of the COVID-19 hotbeds are on the lower end of this range where the risk of death is roughly the same as the risk of dying from an automobile accident on a daily commute.

Here's the authors' conclusion:

"People less than 65 years old have very small risks of COVID-19 death even in the hotbeds of the pandemic and deaths for people less than 65 years without underlying predisposing conditions are remarkably uncommon. Strategies focusing specifically on protecting high-risk elderly individuals should be considered in managing the pandemic....

Aggressive measures such as lockdowns have been implemented in many countries. This is a fully justified “better safe than sorry” approach in the absence of good data. However, long-term lockdowns may have major adverse consequences for health (suicides, worsening mental health, cardiovascular disease, loss of health insurance from unemployment, etc.) and society at large. It is even argued that lockdowns may be even harmful as a response to COVID-19 itself, if they broaden either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic and thus do not come to medical attention." (my bolds)


  1. There is a big difference in the risk value and the risk perception. The least meaningful comparison is just the one presented:
    Covid-19 is a risk that the bearer has little control over, whereas with driving, the bearer of the risk (driver) has the conviction that is in full control of the risk. In this situation is a bit irrelevant the actual # of deaths per person.

    Also the analysis is double biased:
    1. most deaths due to accidents happen in the age group targeted by the analysis.
    2. most deaths due to Covid-19 happen in the age group not considered by the analyses (over 65 years)

    So, while the research might be analytically valid (numbers compared), it has so many structural flaws that can only be considered trash, akin to a tobacco company sponsored research on the risk of smoking.

    1. I have no idea why the authors found it even necessary to make a risk comparison between the voluntary act of driving a vehicle and dying vs. the risk of death from an involuntarily acquired disease.

      It would have been sufficient enough to point out the low risk of those below the age group of 65 either acquiring the disease with few severe symptoms and/or dying from it, thus posing almost no problem to the stress of the health system while emphasizing the load to the health system of those above that age group. Because it is the stress on the health system that seems to have been tough to manage ad is the real problem.

      This would have made it clear that it would have been possible to take less severe measures harming the economy by imposing home quarantine on those of that group with proper support for their health and supply of the necessities while letting those under the age of 65 continue in their daily routine as was done so in every other threat by a pandemic except the 1918 pandemic flue.

      I like to state that I belong at 70 to the high risk group and would have gladly accepted a home quarantine as an appropriate measure in order to not threaten the livelihood of those who still have to earn a living while I can survive without many problems on my pension.

      The measures taken seem disproportionate to the effect of the disease itself seem to point to an ulterior motive: as others have stated, to hide the breakdown of a no longer functioning economic and financial system.

  2. Just so it isn't lost on anyone:Autos don't mutate into more deadly strains that can kill anyone at any age.

    1. Of course they do - follow the path from a Ford T1 to a Ford F250 Pickup truck....or a Bugatti Veyron..:-)