Excess Deaths and the Daily Mail

A Daily Mail graph claims deaths are “barely any higher”.

Anthony B. Masters
3 min readNov 24, 2020


On 20th November, the Daily Mail asserted: “fatalities aren’t any higher”.

This is false. The Daily Mail showed figures “adjusted for population growth” from a Twitter account. The change is in error — appearing to assume an implausible population growth in a year. Journalists should use official statistics for weekly deaths in their articles.

“Fatalities aren’t any higher”

As part of their article, Ross Clark (Daily Mail) wrote:

Despite what the fear-mongers would have you think, deaths are not far above average for this time of year as the graph above shows.

The accompanying graph is:

Note the caption. (Image: Daily Mail)

The caption is important:

Sources: ONS Weekly Deaths Report November 10. Upper/Lower Range ONS. Adjusted for Population Growth. Produced by: Statistics Guy

The amended series are not official statistics. The Office for National Statistics publishes weekly death registration statistics. These statistics — published each Tuesday — cover England and Wales. Instead, the article used figures “adjusted for population growth” from a Twitter account.

The graph is incomplete. The graph ends on week 44. That week ends on Friday 30th October. When the article went to its pixels, the ONS had already published the week 45 report. That report was on 17th November.

The adjustment is implausible. As Tom Phillips (Full Fact) highlights, the method for amending the death counts is unclear. We can look at the past five years to see the range of registrations in week 44:

  • Year 2015: 9,618 registrations;
  • Year 2016: 10,152;
  • Year 2017: 9,984;
  • Year 2018: 9,529;
  • Year 2019: 10,164 registrations.

The implied changes range from 7% (from 2019) to 14% (from 2018). The population has not grown that much. In the last decade, annual UK population growth has been about 0.6% — 0.8% each year.



Anthony B. Masters

This blog looks at the use of statistics in Britain and beyond. It is written by RSS Statistical Ambassador and Chartered Statistician @anthonybmasters.