Covid-19 Sweden: A summary

Sweden has been painted as the Black Sheep of the international community with respect to its ways to deal with the Covid-19 virus.  People and orginizations around the world were very quick to paint Sweden as the Sodom & Gomorra of Covid-19; in particular, media have been, and to some extent still are, providing the ignorant reader with alarmist and erroneous messages about the “gigantic death toll” we are supposedly having.

Simultaneously, various hacks calling them selves “modellers” (I refuse to call them scientists, that would be an insult to science itself as well as real scientists!) raised alarm with ridiculous claims, such as “If Sweden doesn’t lockdown fully, it will have 100.000 deaths by June!”…

For whatever reasons, maybe thanks to very competent strong and high integrity epidemiologists Anders Tegnell & Johan Giesecke, Sweden refused to bend over to international as well as national pressure, and I’ll be ever grateful for that – I value my freedom way too much to spend my remaining few years lockedin, regardless the reason…

So, what has actually happened…? Did Sweden hit 100K deaths by June…? Did everybody die…? 

In this post, the interested reader can learn the facts, as opposed to the gospel of media, “modellers” and various other hysterics.


  1. Sweden has indeed a very high Covid-associated death toll. As we speak, 5619 deaths have been registered as Covid-19 associated deaths. With a population of about 10M, that places Sweden very high in deaths per million, – 556 per million –  compared to many other countries, not least our neighbors, Norway, Finland and Denmark.
  2. The vast majority of Covid-deaths have occurred among the old to very old  (see graphs below), and in care homes in particular.
  3. It’s of significant importance whether all those 5619 people have died from Covid-19, or with Covid-19. That’s a huge difference. We know that a vast majority of those registered as Covid-deaths had significant co-morbidities, that the vast majority was very old – above median age of death in fact – and many of us still know that people tend to eventually die… in fact, there’s strong evidence that age is strongly correlated with death… and a lot of old people have died, presumably of or with Covid, “the last of thousand cuts”…
  4. Any metric based on confirmed cases is useless, since that’s totally dependent on the amount of testing, that has varied a lot over time.
  5. The only relevant metric to draw conclusions from is All Cause Deaths, ideally with a tag on the ultimate cause of death, but that info is not yet available.

A look at 2019

So let’s see if indeed Sweden is the King of Covid-deaths or not, whether the alarmist headlines ring true, whether the Imperial Colleage London guys with their (in)famous model hit the nail or their thumb, and let’s start by looking at the death numbers in detail, and let’s start by looking at how year 2019 ended, in terms of deaths:

  • Year 2019 had the lowest number of deaths in the period I’m currently looking at, 1990-2020. Compared to a baseline of average 2015-2019, 2019 had 2955 fewer deaths than the baseline.  That means there was already end of 2019 a “death deficit” of almost 3000 people, despite continuous population growth.
  • Year 2020 started with building further on that death deficit: between 2020-01-01 and 2020-03-19, 1462 fewer people than during the baseline had died.
  • Thus, adding the death deficit from 2019 to the deficit from first quarter of 2020 makes about 4500 fewer deaths than under the baseline years. I can only speculate on why so few people died during 2019 and early 2020, but one very plausible factor is the almost non-existent flu season during winter 2019/2020. Another factor might be the very normal summer, 2019, with very moderate temperatures (asop to summer 2018, when Sweden had a real heat wave).

Here’s total deaths 1990-2019, not adjusted for anything (yet…!):


(Now before someone says “but you just can’t compare absolute death numbers over the years – you must adjust for population & age…!” – just wait, it’s coming… But first: we are not dealing with rocket science here, we don’t need precision to the n’th decimal in order to see the big picture. But rest assured, I’m going to do the conditioning on age and population eventually below, in fact by two different methods (!) just for the fun of it : analytical (using standardized population 2010) as well as by using Bayesian Inference…!)

Let’s take a look at “Excess Deaths” 2020, that is, let’s compare the daily (or weekly/monthly) death tolls of 2020 Y2D to those of the 2015-2019 baseline:


The graph shows daily excess deaths in red, and cumulative excess deaths in orange, with data up until July 3d. As of that date, Sweden had a bit less than 4000 Excess Deaths. However, taking the 2019 deficit of about 3000 into account, Excess Deaths Jan 1st to July 3d 2020 peaked at about 1000….

Since on average Sweden has about 7500 deaths a month, these 1000 excess deaths constitute less than 1/7 or 14% of a normal monthly death toll. And they have occurred under 3 months. Heck, even when disregarding the 2019 death deficit, we are still dealing with ‘only’ 4000 excess deaths – not 100K! –  over a 6 month period… that’s like a normal ‘bad’ flu season…and by July the daily excess deaths went below zero, meaning that if that downward trend prevails, the excess total will gradually come down for the rest of the year…!

Is that really the disaster, doom & gloom media,modellers et al have painted it as…? 

Next, let’ look at what age groups have been impacted most by Covid:


Above we have age groups of 10 year intervals. The bars show percentage Covid positive (green), ICU-care (orange) and deaths (red) per age group. For under-60, the probability of dying from Covid thus far is 0.0001 and for 70-79 0.001. Since we are looking at Covid-death-data for half a year, let’s double those numbers and we get 0.0002 vs 0.002… The average, all cause  official probability for death for under 65’s is 0.001 and for 65-79 0.017, that is, a factor 10+ greater, meaning that for sure, the probability of dying increases radically by age, but Covid is far from the main cause of deaths. Not even for the very old is Covid the main cause of deaths: the official all cause death probability for 80-89 years old is 0.07, and for 90+ 0.22.

The median age for death in Sweden is 81 for men, and 85 for women. Taking that into consideration, it’s clear that a majority of those who’ve died from or with Covid, are at or above median age of death.

So the bottom line is that (very) old people do tend to die, have always done so, and very probably will always do so, but most of them die from other diseases, not from covid: cancer and heart & lung-diseases being the prime killers, which you can read more about here.

In very many of the “covid-deaths”, covid has been the “final of thousand cuts”, that is, a very old person with an already fragile “system” that is unable to handle *any* extra stress, be it from covid, influenza, or a dog bite.

So what about age adjusted and population adjusted deaths…?

Let’s start with looking at absolute death numbers, all causes, by age group, and in what follows, I’ve made the (simplistic!) assumption that full year 2020 deaths will grow proportionally with same rate as from Jan 1st to July 3d, that is, my assumption (unrealistic!) is that the 2020 total death toll will be basically 2x the current half year death toll (which, as we recall, includes the very high number of deaths in April):


So, iff the current number of all cause deaths will double from now until end of year, 2020 will indeed have the highest mortality, in absolute numbers, that is, not taking neither population size nor age demographics into account,  of this period, 2001 – 2020.

Just for fun, in addition to the ‘counting’ method used to produce the above graph, I hacked a Bayesian General Linear Model on the same data, and compared the analytically obtained numbers with the statistically inferred results of the model:


Here, the blue bars come from the Bayesian Model (with 25 params! 🙂 , and the orange bars from the “analytic” method (2010 as standard population), that is, basic arithmetic, i.e multiplying the age specific death rates with age specific population sizes.  A very close match, indeed.

And finally, let’s condition on both age and population size with both methods, and see what we get:


Again, both methods for calculating the deaths are extremely close.

As for what we really are interested in here, that is, how bad is 2020 in terms of total deaths compared to the years 2001..2019, under the assumption that 2020 total death toll will be 2x half year death toll…?  Turns out that 2020 will not be very special at all. Despite all the hysteria, all the panic, and all the modeling “experts” that already have been proven wrong by orders of magnitude.

So… My conclusion….? If it hasn’t been made obvious by now, I’ll just say that I’m flabbergasted and disgusted over the hysteria and panic that Media and other alarmists have brought upon the world. Thus far there exists no evidence that would support the global panic and the extreme and devastating actions taken by most countries – measures that are going to destroy far more lives than the virus itself, over a foreseeable future.

Your turn.

[EDIT: graphs in better resolution can be found at ]

[UPDATE 20200720 – just found this excellent article on the topic]

[UPDATE 20200721 – excellent post explaining the madness!]

[UPDATE 20200722 – another excellent post on the madness]





About swdevperestroika

High tech industry veteran, avid hacker reluctantly transformed to mgmt consultant.
This entry was posted in Bayes, Data Analytics, Epidemics, MCMC, Pandas, Politik, Probability, PYMC, Python, Society, Statistics, Sverige and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Covid-19 Sweden: A summary

  1. Mikael Vester says:

    Bra sammanfattat! Innehållet blir mycket mer intressant när du för ett resonemang. Det enda som återstår nu är att fixa graferna så att en gammal synskadad gubbe som jag faktiskt kan se vad de representerar.

    Snyggt jobbat!

    // Mikael

    On Sun, Jul 19, 2020 at 9:59 PM systems perestroika – éminence grise wrote:

    > swdevperestroika posted: “Sweden has been painted as the Black Sheep of > the international community with respect to its ways to deal with the > Covid-19 virus. People and orginizations around the world were very quick > to paint Sweden as the Sodom & Gomorra of Covid-19; in parti” >

  2. Pierre says:

    Thank you very much, once more, for independent and analytical thinking. You probably know Richard Feynmans first autobiography. Otherwise you might enjoy reading it. Best regards, Pierre

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s