HELENA — A new report from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) shows the impact COVID-19 has had on the death rate in Montana.
In 2020 the death rate among Montana residents increased by 14% when compared with the previous 5-year average. The report notes there were 12,018 deaths reported to DPHHS in 2020 compared to the average of 10,086 deaths from 2015-19.
State health officials point to the COVID-19 pandemic as the main reason for the increase.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the health and daily lives of Montanans,” said DPHHS Director Adam Meier. “Our hearts go out to all those who have lost a loved one over the past year as we approach the anniversary of the state’s first COVID-19 related death. This report illustrates how this has impacted Montanans all across the state.”
COVID-19 was the 3rd leading cause of death in 2020 with 1,104 deaths according to state data.
The report states that nearly 75% of COVID deaths in Montana were people age 70 and older, and nearly 70% of COVID deaths had at least one underlying medical condition. The report also noted that Native Americans make up about 7% of Montana’s population, but represent 18% of reported COVID-related deaths in the state.
Heart disease continued to be the state’s number one leading cause of death with 2,365 deaths attributed. Cancer was the second leading cause of death with 2,114 deaths attributed.
In 2020, DPHHS data showed that 287 people in Montana died from suicide.
The first COVID-19 death in Montana occurred on March 26, 2020. MTN’s data showed November to be the deadliest month for the disease in Montana, followed by December.
Provisional data from DPHHS indicates that 2020 was the first year since records started in 1908 in which the number of deaths exceeded the number of births. In 2020 there were 10,791 reported births compared to the 12,018 deaths.
The cause of death recorded on a death certificate is determined by a physician, advanced practice nurse, or coroner and is reported to DPHHS. Information on deaths occurring in a calendar year is usually not finalized until mid-year the following year.
DPHHS reports less than 2 percent of death certificates have incomplete information, which may impact the categorization of a small number of deaths.