The Philippines has registered its highest mortality rate in 63 years in 2021, with more than 760,000 deaths recorded mostly due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and heart attacks, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) said.




Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), POPCOM said a total of 768,504 deaths have been registered across the country in the first 11 months of 2021—translating to a mortality rate of 6.98 per thousand.

POPCOM’s report showed that ischemic heart disease is the leading cause of death in 2021 which killed 110,332 Filipinos from January to October 2021, higher than the 86,164 in the previous year.

This was followed by COVID-19 which was tagged as the underlying cause of death for 75,285 Filipinos last year, up from the 30,140 deaths from the same cause from March to December 2020.

Mortalities also increased for cerebrovascular disease (from 53,082 to 58,880), hypertension (from 26,079 to 32,614), and diabetes mellitus (from 32,830 to 38,584).

“The increasing number of deaths indicate a health system severely challenged by the pandemic and its consequences. Diseases with higher mortalities are also those causing the highest incidences of illnesses in the entire population. If consultations for these are delayed, exacerbations and complications happen,” Perez said.

Deaths due to neoplasms decreased (from 55,700 to 48,937) from January to October 2021, but Perez said this should not be a “comforting thought.”.

“The fact that neoplasms are down should not be a comforting thought, as hospitals are heavily burdened with COVID-19. Diagnosis of all forms of cancers may also be delayed or remain undiagnosed, leading to deaths attributed to other causes,” he noted.

‘Highest in PH medical history’

Highest in over 60 years, Perez estimated that the 2021 number of deaths already indicates the highest annual death statistic in the Philippines’ recorded medical history.

“In 2019 and 2020, the mortality rate was about the same at 5.8 per 1,000 Filipinos. By the end of 2021, I believe it reached 7.5 or 8 per 1,000—not the highest mortality rate ever in the country, but certainly the highest number of Filipinos dying in a single year,” Perez explained.

The POPCOM chief, referencing earlier editions of the Philippine Health Statistics, said the last time that the Philippines experienced the same level of mortality rates were in 1958 to 1959 where it reached between 7.3 and 8.4, but at that time “only 218,816 died.”

The Population and Development undersecretary attributed the significant increase in the number of deaths last year indicates the need for acute healthcare services at higher levels of care, such as provincial hospitals and regional medical centers.

“The challenge to the Philippine health system is both acute and unprecedented. Local health systems would need to be augmented by additional investments in health systems capacity and its resilience to respond to acute health crises,” Perez said.