Many are asking why the fatality rate in Italy is so high, here is why

Experts are concerned with the number of fatalities exceeding the total reported in China.


Statistics have shown that the coronavirus death toll in Italy is very high, with hospitals being overwhelmed and a nationwide lockdown imposed. However, experts are also concerned with the number of fatalities exceeding the total reported in China.

According to last week’s statistics, out of the 63,927 people confirmed coronavirus patients in Italy, 6,077 died. By contrast, China had many more cases, 81,496, but 3,274 fatalities.

In simple words, this means that around 9% of confirmed coronavirus patients have died in Italy as compared to 4% in China.

So why the difference? 

According to Prof Walter Ricciardi, a scientific adviser to Italy’s minister of health, the country’s fatality rate is far higher due to the following demographics – the nation has the second oldest population worldwide – and how hospitals record deaths.

Prof Ricciardi said, “The age of our patients in hospitals is significantly older – the average is 67 in Italy, while in China it was 46. So basically, the age distribution of our patients is squeezed to older age, and this is significant in increasing the lethality.”

Last week, research published in JAMA found that almost 40% of infections and 87% of mortality in Italy have been in patients over the age of 70.

According to modeling by the Imperial College, London, the majority of this age group are likely to need critical hospital care.


Ricciardi added that Italy’s death rate might also seem high because of how doctors record fatalities.

“The way in which Italy code deaths is very generous; all the people who die in hospitals associated with the coronavirus are considered to be dying of the virus. On re-assessment by the National Institute of Health, only 12% of death certificates have shown a direct causality from the coronavirus. However, 88% of patients who have died have at least one pre-morbidity – many had two or three,” Ricciardi said.

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