COVID-19 leaving over 250,000 people facing sudden bereavement – accounting for half of all sudden deaths this year
- More than 250,000 people across the UK are dealing with the devastating effects of an unexpected bereavement from COVID-191, according to the charity bereavement service Sudden – doubling the number of people bereaved by all sudden causes this year to about half a million
- Sudden’s analysis of UK Government data suggests that 221,520 people in England have been bereaved as a result of COVID-19, with a further 15,715 in Scotland, 10,540 in Wales and 4,050 in Northern Ireland
- Without early care and social support, the risk of serious mental health conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) increase
- Sudden estimates that the economic cost of dealing with PTSD alone, among those bereaved as a result of the pandemic, could already be as much as £800million3
- Sudden’s service has been set up thanks to government and grant funding as a pandemic response, providing crucial early emotional and practical support to those bereaved suddenly which can help prevent significant costs to the NHS and the economy.
Monday, 16 November 2020: More than a quarter of a million people across the UK are now dealing with the devastating effects of an unexpected bereavement from COVID-19, according to the charitable service Sudden, contributing to a doubling of the numbers of people bereaved by all sudden causes in the UK in 2020. The news comes as COVID-19 deaths in the country pass 50,000.
Studies show that, for every death, there are at least five people on average who are bereaved of a close family member1. Sudden’s analysis of UK Government statistics therefore indicate that some 221,520 people in England are dealing with an unexpected bereavement as a result of COVID-19, with a further 15,715 in Scotland, 10,540 in Wales and 4,050 in Northern Ireland.
Across England, figures indicate that the largest number of COVID-19 bereavements are in Birmingham (5,770), followed by Liverpool (3,215), Leeds (3,110), County Durham (3,090) and Sheffield (2,800)4.
Table: Deaths within 28 days of positive test, by UK region. Data as of 11 November 2020. Source: UK Government statistics: Deaths within 28 days of positive test by area.
|UK Region||Numbers suddenly bereaved due to COVID-19||COVID-19 deaths|
Sudden provides immediate emotional and practical support, from day one onwards, to people bereaved unexpectedly – including from COVID-19, suicides, and natural disasters. The charity service says that a sudden bereavement pandemic is well underway as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Sudden estimates that the numbers of people dying from all sudden causes may double to more than 100,000, as a result of COVID-19 – leaving around 500,000 people facing the effects of an unforeseen bereavement by the end of this year2.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Given the unexpected nature of such deaths, those dealing with the sudden loss of a loved one can experience particularly profound shock and turmoil in their lives, as well as grief. Without early care and social support, there is an increased risk of serious mental health conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other challenges that affect safety and wellbeing.
Sudden estimates that the long-term economic cost of dealing with PTSD alone, among those bereaved as a result of the pandemic, could already be as much as £800million3.
Psychological trauma research shows that appropriate emotional and practical support in the early days and weeks following sudden bereavement can help people to cope with immediate emotional, practical, and other issues including pre-existing challenges in their lives, such a poverty of illness and seek help with any emerging challenges, including mental health conditions.
Sudden is calling for continued investment from the Government and other funders in early intervention support in 2021, to help people dealing with the unexpected death of a loved one due to the pandemic and due to other reasons, including many different kinds of personal disasters.
Mary Williams OBE, Sudden’s Chief Executive, said: “As we pass the grim milestone of 50,000 people who have sadly lost their lives to Coronavirus, the sudden bereavement pandemic is accelerating rapidly.
“It’s vital that people facing a sudden bereavement get emotional and practical support quickly, to help them cope, understand the reactions they are experiencing, stay safe and have their needs met. Sudden is at the frontline of helping people through their darkest hours, from day one of their bereavement, onwards. Early support can make a significant difference to someone’s long-term wellbeing, as well as significantly reduce the economic costs to society of sudden bereavement.”
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Notes to editors
- For every death, there are on average up to five people seriously bereaved. Source: Antonucci TC., Akiyama H., Takahashi K. Attachment and close relationships across the life span. Attach Hum Dev.2004; 6:353–370.
- People dying of all sudden causes may double by the end of 2020, to over 100,000, as a result of COVID-19 – leaving some 500,000 facing the effects of an unforeseen bereavement. Source: Sudden ‘When the Worst Happens’ report, July 2020.
- Trauma research shows that about 5% of people may develop PTSD following a sudden or shocking bereavement: Koenen KC, Ratanatharathorn A, Ng L, McLaughlin KA, Bromet EJ, Stein DJ, et al. (2017) Posttraumatic stress disorder in the World Mental Health Surveys. The study of Buljan, NF (2015) Burden of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – health, social, and economic impacts of exposure to the London bombings, LSE suggests that the economic cost of PTSD, including direct and indirect costs, could be as much as £64,000 per person
- Please see table below.
Table: Deaths within 28 days of positive test, by English/Scottish Local Authority area. Data as of 11 November 2020. Source UK Government statistics: Deaths within 28 days of positive test by area.
|Rank||Lower Tier Local Authority (England/Scotland)||Numbers suddenly bereaved due to COVID-19||COVID-19 deaths|
|23||Cheshire West and Chester||1,735||347|
|35||City of Edinburgh||1,435||287|
|38||East Riding of Yorkshire||1,410||282|
|55||Kingston upon Hull, City of||1,165||233|
|58||Newcastle upon Tyne||1,135||227|
|80||Hackney and City of London||895||179|
|86||Bristol, City of||820||164|
|88||Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole||805||161|
|92||Nuneaton and Bedworth||745||149|
|94||Cornwall and Isles of Scilly||740||148|
|96||Reigate and Banstead||740||148|
|102||Folkestone and Hythe||705||141|
|103||Barking and Dagenham||700||140|
|107||Redcar and Cleveland||685||137|
|108||Blackburn with Darwen||675||135|
|113||King’s Lynn and West Norfolk||660||132|
|123||Kingston upon Thames||610||122|
|126||North East Derbyshire||600||120|
|129||Hammersmith and Fulham||590||118|
|131||Brighton and Hove||580||116|
|138||Richmond upon Thames||570||114|
|147||Herefordshire, County of||555||111|
|155||Basingstoke and Deane||535||107|
|170||Kensington and Chelsea||480||96|
|182||Windsor and Maidenhead||450||90|
|188||Hinckley and Bosworth||440||88|
|190||Telford and Wrekin||440||88|
|204||North East Lincolnshire||410||82|
|214||Isle of Wight||395||79|
|241||Newark and Sherwood||355||71|
|250||North West Leicestershire||340||68|
|255||Epsom and Ewell||325||65|
|262||Vale of White Horse||310||62|
|266||Dumfries and Galloway||300||60|
|278||Perth and Kinross||285||57|
|283||Oadby and Wigston||275||55|
|297||Bath and North East Somerset||230||46|
|303||Argyll and Bute||215||43|
|307||Tonbridge and Malling||210||42|
|318||Forest of Dean||190||38|
|319||Somerset West and Taunton||190||38|
|346||Comhairle nan Eilean Siar||5||1|
Five tips for helping someone suddenly bereaved from Sudden
- Expect a range of reactions– a suddenly bereaved person can suffer a range of emotions, feelings, thoughts, physical reactions and behaviours. This is normal, as long as they are kept safe.
- Listen patiently to their bereavement story– actively listen to someone who is bereaved, telling them “You matter”. Do not talk about your own bereavements or say “you will feel better soon”. This can come across as trivialising their bereavement.
- Ask open-ended questions that will help keep them healthy and safe– such as “Who is helping you this week?”, “What shopping do you need?”, “When would you like me to call you?” Such questions show you care and help you identify help needed. Look out for signs that they may be at risk, for example, from suicide, not eating, illness, or being unable to look after themselves, or others, or being harmed by someone else. If there is an immediate risk, dial 999. If not immediate, contact Sudden for advice.
- Encourage suddenly bereaved people to contactSudden – they will be allocated a dedicated case worker, who will advise and support them throughout the early days and weeks of their bereavement. Our friendly, professional case workers provide a confidential listening ear, as well as practical support to access local services and help to solve immediate pressing issues, such as financial problems and funeral arrangements.
- Look after yourself– supporting someone who has been suddenly bereaved is not an easy task. Do not expect to make things better, soon. All bereavements take time. Offer help you can reasonably give and consider who can support you, if and when you need it. Contact Sudden for advice and support for yourself – the service is also for people caring for bereaved people.
If you, or someone you know, has experienced sudden bereavement, Sudden can help. Call us on 0800 2600 400 or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll arrange for a dedicated caseworker to call you back. We help from day one, onwards, for the first ten weeks of bereavement, when people are often in extreme need of care and support, suffering from shock and huge change in their lives.
Sudden is reliant on donations. We are a charity-run service. If you’d like to contribute to our crucial work, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, then please donate to Sudden. Sudden is run and hosted by Brake, the road safety charity.