Medical Technology

Ohio Records More Deaths Than Births for First Time

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Ohio recorded more deaths than births for the first time in history last year, with about 10,000 more people dying than were born.

In 2020, around 143,661 Ohioans died and 129,313 Ohioans were born, according to The Columbus Dispatch . The trend appears to have continued so far this year, with 107,462 deaths and 100,781 births reported to date.

Deaths haven’t surpassed births in the 112 years since the state began compiling data in 1909, the newspaper reported. The state’s birth rate has been declining for years while the number of deaths has risen, though data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” Joseph Gastaldo, MD, the medical director of infectious diseases for OhioHealth, told the newspaper.

Ohio’s birth rate fell by 4% in 2020, which defied public expectations about a pandemic birth boom. In addition, the state reported 13,927 COVID-19 deaths throughout the year.

“It’s COVID, clearly,” he noted.

Alabama also recorded more deaths than births for the first time last year, according to  The New York Times . The state reported 64,714 deaths and 57,641 births in 2020.

“Our state literally shrunk in 2020,” Scott Harris, MD, the state health officer for Alabama, said at a news conference in September.

The state had never recorded a gap that large, even during World War I, World War II, and the 1918 flu pandemic, he said. Alabama has kept records on the numbers since 1900.

“We’ve never had a time when deaths exceeded births,” Harris said.

In fact, about half of U.S. states reported death rates higher than birth rates in 2020, according to a recent study from researchers at the University of New Hampshire. In 2019, only five states –Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia — reported more deaths than births.

In 2020, the U.S. reported a record of nearly 3.4 million deaths, which was 18% more than in 2019, the researchers found. COVID-19 was the primary reason for the increase in deaths, accounting for about 11% of total deaths. Meanwhile, births dropped by 4% to about 3.6 million.

The surplus of births over deaths added 229,000 people to the U.S. population in 2020, as compared to 892,000 in 2019, which means the country’s population growth slowed last year. The decline, paired with lower immigration rates during the pandemic, led to the smallest annual percentage population gain in at least 100 years.

“Deaths will likely exceed births again in many states in 2021,” Kenneth Johnson, PhD, a senior demographer and study author, wrote in a statement.

“How large or protracted these fertility declines and mortality increases will be remains to be seen, but they have already dramatically reduced population growth in the United States,” he said.


The Columbus Dispatch: “Ohio had more deaths than births in 2020, a grim first in state history.”

The New York Times: “Covid-stricken Alabama had more deaths than births last year, a first in its recorded history.”

University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Policy: “Deaths Exceeded Births in a Record Number of States in 2020.”

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