Switzerland’s Covid-19 death rate has been lower than much of the rest of Europe. A lower infection rate among older people appears to be one reason why.
The rates of deaths among those either recovering or dying have been particularly high in Belgium (40%), France (34%) and Italy (31%). In other countries such as Austria (4%), Germany (5%) and Switzerland (7%) they have been much lower.
There are many reasons for variations in these death rates. Among them is case counting. More extensive testing typically captures more healthy cases that recover, bringing down the overall death rate. How Covid-19 deaths are counted and the quality of healthcare will make a difference too.
However, another reason is differences in the number infected in each age group. The elderly are more likely to die from Covid-19 because of their poorer underlying health, so if more of them catch it, the population-wide death rate will be higher.
In Switzerland, 35% of Covid-19 cases were found in people over 59. In Germany and Austria the rate was around 30%, similar to Switzerland. However, the percentage of Covid-19 cases over 59 was more than 40% in France and more than 50% in both Belgium and Italy, 15 percentage points higher than in Switzerland and 20 percentage points higher than in Austria and Germany.
The percentage of the total population over 59 across all these countries is broadly similar. Switzerland (25%), Austria (25%) and Belgium (25%) have slightly lower percentages than France (26%), Germany (28%) and Italy (29%), but the differences are relatively small.
This suggests that significantly higher percentages of people over 59 have been infected with Covid-19 in France, Belgium and Italy than in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Something that is likely to explain at least some of the difference in overall death rates between these countries. Germany has done particularly well in this regard. Despite having a somewhat older population, a lower percentage of its Covid-19 cases are 60 or over than in countries such as Belgium with younger populations.
In Iceland, where the death rate so far is less than 1% (0.7%), only 17% of infections have been in people above the age of 59. South Korea is a further example of a nation where a relatively low outcome-based death rate (2.8%) is associated with a relatively low percentage of infections among those over 59 (24%).
Infection and testing data (in English)