Project Title

Using Funeral Listings and Newspaper Obituaries as Early Indicators of Excess Mortality

Authors' Affiliations

Allen Archer, Department of Health Services Management and Policy, College of Public Health, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN.

Faculty Sponsor’s Department

Health Services Management & Policy

Type

Oral Competitive

Classification of First Author

Undergraduate Student

Project's Category

Public Health

Abstract Text

Abstract

Objectives: To identify a simple and effective means for public health professionals in rural communities to identify excess mortality using publicly available data.

Methods: Online data from four rural funeral homes, and obituary data from the most widely circulated newspaper in the same region were collected from January 2017 through December 2020. A three-year monthly average of death listings was created for 2017-2019 and compared, month-by-month with the amount of 2020 death listings.

Results: The four funeral homes reported a total of 3,957 deaths, and there were 7,623 newspaper obituaries published between January 2017 and December 2020. In the five-month period following the first COVID-19 death in the region on July 28, 2020, funeral home reports and newspaper obituaries reported a 20.2% and a 14.5% increase in deaths, respectively, for 2020 compared to the prior three-year average.

Conclusion: During the five months following the first death attributed to COVID-19, funeral home reports and newspaper obituaries both identified a significant increase in deaths over the monthly average death listings of the three years prior.

Policy Implications: Local public health officials may be able to use a multi-year, month-by-month summary of deaths, as reported by funeral homes and/or newspaper obituaries, to provide an “early indicator” of excess mortality in rural areas.

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 

Using Funeral Listings and Newspaper Obituaries as Early Indicators of Excess Mortality

Abstract

Objectives: To identify a simple and effective means for public health professionals in rural communities to identify excess mortality using publicly available data.

Methods: Online data from four rural funeral homes, and obituary data from the most widely circulated newspaper in the same region were collected from January 2017 through December 2020. A three-year monthly average of death listings was created for 2017-2019 and compared, month-by-month with the amount of 2020 death listings.

Results: The four funeral homes reported a total of 3,957 deaths, and there were 7,623 newspaper obituaries published between January 2017 and December 2020. In the five-month period following the first COVID-19 death in the region on July 28, 2020, funeral home reports and newspaper obituaries reported a 20.2% and a 14.5% increase in deaths, respectively, for 2020 compared to the prior three-year average.

Conclusion: During the five months following the first death attributed to COVID-19, funeral home reports and newspaper obituaries both identified a significant increase in deaths over the monthly average death listings of the three years prior.

Policy Implications: Local public health officials may be able to use a multi-year, month-by-month summary of deaths, as reported by funeral homes and/or newspaper obituaries, to provide an “early indicator” of excess mortality in rural areas.

Project Video