Global COVID-19 deaths may be triple that of official reports, according to a study published in The Lancet Thursday.
The study takes into account a broader measure of deaths from the pandemic, including direct deaths from the disease and indirect deaths from the pandemic such as a spike in anxiety and depression that could have led to an increase in suicides.
“The magnitude of disease burden might have changed for many causes of death during the pandemic period due to both direct effects of lockdowns and the resulting economic turmoil,” the study says.
Currently, the global death rate is at six million for COVID-19, but the study says the true count could be at 18.2 million deaths across the globe.
The study of excess deaths, deaths that occurred compared to predicted deaths based on past history, was highest in seven countries: India, the U.S., Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan.
By region, the highest excess deaths were in south Asia, north Africa and the Middle East and eastern Europe, according to the findings.
Few countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, were able to obtain negative excess deaths during the pandemic.
“We currently don’t have enough evidence for most locations,” lead author Dr. Haidong Wang, an associate professor at the University of Washington, told USA Today. “Further research will help to reveal how many deaths were caused directly by COVID-19, and how many occurred as an indirect result of the pandemic.”
“The actual numbers don’t matter as much as the main point … The number of people who died from this pandemic is larger than we think,” he added. “These policy choices have consequences.”