A COVID-19 patient at the Seinäjoki hospital. LEHTIKUVA

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In 2022, Finland witnessed a significant increase in mortality rates, primarily due to COVID-19. The disease accounted for nearly 7% of all deaths, claiming 4,349 lives. This marked a 7.7% rise in overall mortality compared to 2021, with a total of 63,200 deaths recorded last year, over 5,500 more than the previous year.

While COVID-19 was a major factor, other causes contributed to the increase.

Deaths due to memory-related diseases and heart and circulatory system ailments also rose. In contrast, fatalities from cancers, accidents, and suicides decreased compared to 2021. Notably, no deaths were attributed to COVID-19 vaccines last year, a reduction from six vaccine-related deaths in 2021.

Kati Taskinen from Statistics Finland highlighted that COVID-19 deaths in 2022 were significantly higher than the combined total of the previous two years. The pandemic's third year in Finland saw a drastic increase in deaths, with nearly 3,400 more COVID-19 fatalities than in 2021 and around 3,800 more than in 2020. Additionally, COVID-19 contributed to 2,820 deaths as a secondary cause, often in conjunction with memory diseases or cardiovascular diseases.

2022 saw a notable disparity in mortality rates between genders. Women's age-standardized death rate increased by 8.8% from the previous year, more than men's 6.5% increase. This increase was particularly significant in deaths due to memory diseases among women.

Older age groups experienced higher mortality rates, but there was also a slight increase in deaths among the working-age population (15-64 years), rising by 1.3%. Of the approximately 7,500 working-age deaths, 5,000 were men and 2,500 women, an increase of 59 from the previous year. For this demographic, the increase in women's deaths was more pronounced, driven primarily by COVID-19, cardiovascular diseases, and accidents.

Heart and circulatory diseases remained the leading cause of death, accounting for nearly a third of all fatalities. Over 19,500 people died from these diseases, an increase of over 700 from 2021. The long-term declining trend in mortality from these diseases halted, with a notable rise in deaths due to hypertension-related heart and kidney diseases.

Cancer was the second most common cause of death, with one in five deaths attributed to it. However, cancer mortality decreased by 2.1% from the previous year. Men experienced a 5.5% decrease in cancer deaths, while women saw a 1.5% increase. The most common cancers causing death were lung and pancreatic cancer, with lung cancer overtaking breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer death among women.

Memory diseases were the third leading cause of death, with over 800 more deaths than in 2021. The median age of those dying from memory diseases was 86 for men and 89 for women.

There was an increase in male suicides compared to the previous year. In 2022, 740 suicides were reported, a slight decrease from 2021. Three-quarters of these were by men, who have historically had a higher suicide rate than women. However, this gender gap has narrowed since the 1990s. While men's suicide rates had been decreasing since 2018, they rose again in 2022. Conversely, the number of suicides by women decreased.

Suicide among the young remains a concern, with 12% of all suicides committed by those under 25 years. Among 15-24 year-olds who died, nearly a third succumbed to suicide.

The data from 2022 paints a complex picture of public health in Finland, underscoring the profound impact of COVID-19 on mortality rates and highlighting ongoing concerns in other health areas.

HT

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