In 2021, overall deaths increased by one per cent compared to 2020 – an increase entirely due to more deaths among men, including more fatal overdose and COVID-19 deaths.
According to new numbers from Statistics Canada released in late August, there were 311,640 total deaths across Canada during the second year of the pandemic.
But while deaths among men increased by 2.5 per cent compared to the previous year, deaths among women declined by 0.5 per cent.
The largest increase in male deaths was seen among those aged 45-64 years old, with this age group seeing a 4.2 per cent increase in deaths. Deaths among women in the same age bracket decreased by 0.2 per cent.
COVID-19 dropped from the third to the fourth leading cause of death in the country in 2021, behind cancer, heart disease and accidental deaths, which includes fatal overdoses. There were 14,466 confirmed COVID-19 deaths across Canada in 2021 compared to 16,313 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in 2020.
But COVID-19 deaths only decreased among women in 2021, the data shows.
“Despite a greater understanding of the evolution of the COVID-19 virus, strengthened public health regulations and the introduction of vaccines across Canada, COVID-19 continued to significantly impact the lives of Canadians in 2021,” the report stated.
“Females accounted for the entire decline in COVID-19 deaths. There were 2,056 fewer female deaths in 2021 than in 2020, while male deaths due to COVID-19 increased from 7,889 in 2020 to 8,098 in 2021.”
Another category which saw a larger increase in deaths among men was accidental poisonings.
“An accidental poisoning resulting in death occurs when a person is exposed to a noxious substance such as drugs, alcohol, carbon monoxide or pesticides,” the report stated. “Unintentional deaths caused by accidental poisonings accounted for 7,066 deaths in 2021, an increase of 31.9 per cent when compared with 2020.”
The vast majority of these deaths were fatal drug overdoses, StatCan said. Although accidental poisonings increased among both men and women in 2021, the largest increases were seen among men. For every 10 deaths attributed to an accidental poisoning, seven were men.
In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, there were 307,205 deaths in total in Canada, an increase of 7.7 per cent compared to 2019, which saw 285,270 deaths.
Although 2021 didn’t see as sharp of an increase in deaths for the country as a whole, several provinces and one territory saw at least a seven per cent increase in overall deaths compared to 2020. These included the Northwest Territories, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
In 2020, the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths were among older Canadians, with those under the age of 65 only accounting for 5.9 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths. The number of COVID-19 deaths among younger Canadians more than doubled in 2021, from 968 to 2,602, with deaths among men accounting for the majority of the increase.
Overall life expectancy declined by just 0.1 years – or around five weeks – from 81.7 years to 81.6, a slight decrease driven by the 0.2-year decrease seen among men’s life expectancy. Women’s life expectancy increased by 0.1 years in 2021 compared to 2020. This stands in contrast to 2020, which saw life expectancy decrease by 0.7 years for men and 0.4 years for women compared to 2019.
Cancer was the cause behind more than a quarter of deaths in Canada in 2021, killing 82,822 people, which is an increase of two per cent compared to cancer deaths in 2020.
Heart disease represented the cause of 17.7 per cent of deaths, killing 55,271 – an increase of 1.6 per cent.
More than 19,000 deaths fell under the “accidental death” category, accounting for 6.2 per cent of all deaths, which includes accidental falls and fatal overdoses.
“This represents a year-over-year increase in the number of accidental deaths of 14.5 per cent,” the report stated.
“Deaths attributed to unintentional poisonings and accidental falls were the driving forces behind this increase.”
In 2021, deaths due to accidental falls increased by 6.1 per cent compared to 2020.
The fifth highest cause of death in Canada in 2021 was cerebrovascular disease such as stroke, which caused 13,491 deaths. Rounding out the rest of the top ten were chronic lower respiratory diseases at 11,018 deaths, diabetes mellitus at 7,472 deaths, Alzheimer’s disease at 5,471 deaths, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis at 4,617 deaths, and influenza and pneumonia at 4,115 deaths.