A colleague shared an article dated August 12, 2023, which alleged that “Malaysians are dying at unprecedented rates.”
The author wrote that the “excess mortality in Malaysia has risen dramatically to levels between 2 to 48 per cent, averaging somewhere around 20 per cent during the period January 2022 to May 2023.”
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has reported 19,099 fewer deaths for the period from March 2020 to June 2021, when compared to the pre-pandemic period of 2015 to 2019. I have offered an alternative explanation to this negative excess mortality, unlike that proposed by the MOH. (2)
The period July 2021 – December 2021 recorded an excess mortality of +27,013. This is accounted by the excess deaths from Covid-19, which saw the Crude Death Rate per 1,000 persons, increase to 6.9 as compared to 5.1 to 5.3 the preceding four years. Covid-19 was the highest cause of deaths (19.8 per cent) in 2021.
Apart from the excess deaths in the third quarter of 2021, the Crude Death Rate has virtually returned to figures prior to the pandemic.
There is nothing from the most recent data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) to suggest that “Malaysians are dying at unprecedented rates”.
In actual fact, the total of 50,276 deaths recorded in the third quarter of 2022 was 31.7 per cent lower when compared with the third quarter of 2021 (73,606 deaths).
The author is probably not familiar with the concept of P-Score, or percentage of deaths that are above normal deaths.
The P-Score is a useful metric of excess mortality that will enable us compare our national excess mortality over a period of time. It also allows us to compare our national excess mortality with other countries.
If Malaysia had a P-score of 100 per cent in a given week in 2023, it means that for that given week, the death count was 100 per cent higher (that is double) than the projected death count for that week.
Pending exact figures from the MOH, eyeballing the excess mortality would suggest that the peak in September 2021 coincided with excess deaths from the Delta wave, whereas the peak in the first quarter of 2022 correlated well with excess mortality from the Omicron wave.
The first quarter of 2023 has seen Malaysia move towards negative excess mortality and showing lower excess mortality compared to Singapore for the period 2022 to 2023.
Dr Musa Mohd Nordin is a consultant paediatrician.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.