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Original article Cause-specific mortalities in Korea during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic
Jinwook Bahk1orcid , Kyunghee Jung-Choi2orcid
Epidemiol Health 2022;e2022110
DOI: https://doi.org/10.4178/epih.e2022110 [Accepted]
Published online: November 23, 2022
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1Department of Public Health, Keimyung University, Daegu, Korea
2Department of Environmental Medicine, College of Medicine, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea
Corresponding author:  Kyunghee Jung-Choi,
Email: jungchoi@ewha.ac.kr
Received: 24 August 2022   • Revised: 13 November 2022   • Accepted: 23 November 2022

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 during the COVID-19 pandemic and the previous year in Korea.
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 were calculated between 2019 and 2020, respectively.
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 was 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 were decreased or stable between 2019 and 2020 for all age groups, except women aged 25-29. This increase was mainly attributed to an increase in suicide deaths.
This study shed light on the issues of sepsis and aspiration pneumonia despite the successful response to COVID-19 in Korea in 2020. The causes 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.

Epidemiol Health : Epidemiology and Health