COVID-19 deaths in the United States have surpassed 200,000, and the coronavirus is now the third leading cause of death in this country, after heart disease and cancer. Before the pandemic, the U.S. already had the highest overall mortality rate among similarly large and wealthy countries, and the gap has widened in the last few decades.
In this analysis, we put the pandemic’s toll into perspective by comparing where COVID-19 falls as a leading cause of death in the U.S. versus peer countries (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member nations with above median GDP and above median GDP per capita). We find that COVID-19 mortality rates are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and COVID-19 ranks as the third highest in only one peer country, Belgium. In several peer countries (Australia, Austria, Germany, and Japan), COVID-19 is not close to breaking into the top 10 leading causes of death. Further, the U.S. nears the top of the list of countries most affected by COVID-19 on a per capita basis, surpassed only by Belgium and the United Kingdom. Finally, on a per capita basis, excess deaths this year are highest in the U.S. and the U.K. Taken together these findings suggest the pandemic will likely increase the existing mortality rate gap between the U.S. and its peers.