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Mortality in Germany must be recorded better and faster – lessons from the COVID 19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed significant shortcomings in the recording and documentation of mortality in Germany. A current working paper from the German Data Forum (RatSWD) focuses on the main deficits: long information flows, a lack of centrally collected recordings of meaningful mortality data, and a lack of access to such data for research purposes. For years the German Data Forum (RatSWD) has been recommending the establishment and further development of a nationwide mortality register. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) therefore welcomes the contributions to the discussion, especially against the background of the COVID 19 pandemic.

Mortality registers are relevant for researching rare diseases, for recording non-natural causes of death, and for maintaining and largely improving health care and social security for the entire population. These registers provide data on general mortality events, including causes of death. Compared to the rest of the world, however, Germany has a great deal of improving to do with the establishment of a nationwide register. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) recommends the establishment and further development of a nationwide mortality register for many years, and exchanges ideas with key players, such as the team of authors. In 2010, it published dedicated recommendations.

A current contribution in the German Data Forum (RatSWD) Working Paper series again reveals the shortcomings in recording and documenting mortality events in Germany, specifically against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mortality registers can provide up-to-date data for the epidemiological and demographic research of pandemic infectious diseases, and thus the empirical evidence of short-term developments. Mortality registersalso offer important opportunities for health and social research. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) therefore welcomes this contribution to the ongoing discussion.

The authors Prof. Dr. Norbert F. Schneider, Prof. Dr. Dr. Ulrich Mueller, and Dr. Sebastian Klüsener from the Federal Institute for Population Research (Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung, BiB) identified three particularly serious deficits: 1. the information takes too long to flow from the local health offices and reporting facilities to the Robert Koch Institute, the statistical offices of the federal and state governments, or other central facilities, 2. there is no central collection of meaningful mortality data and, 3. scientific research, as well as the general public, lack access to such data. The article shows measures to overcome these deficits, but also highlights that there will always be some degree of uncertainty in the statistical recording of mortality.

Schneider, Norbert F., Ulrich Mueller und Sebastian Klüsener (2020): Sterblichkeit in Deutschland muss besser und schneller erfasst werden. Lehren aus der COVID-19-Pandemie. RatSWD Working Paper Nr. 272. https://doi.org/10.17620/02671.54.