Records kept by Vital Statistics Services (VSS), which is part of the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH), show a significant increase in 2020 deaths among residents over what would have been expected before the year began, along with fewer recorded births, marriages and divorces.
Among Wyoming residents, there were 5,983 deaths recorded in 2020 compared to 5,121 deaths in 2019 for a year over year difference of 862, according to official death certificate information. Death certificates are completed by attending physicians and coroners and then filed with VSS.
“Our data has shown steady, small increases in deaths for several years largely due to our state’s aging population,” said Guy Beaudoin, VSS deputy state registrar with WDH. “But before the COVID-19 pandemic hit we never would have predicted the large jump we saw in 2020.”
Records show 528 Wyoming resident deaths were reported as related to COVID-19 in 2020 because death certificates described COVID-19 as either causing or contributing to the deaths of those individuals.
“It’s clear that COVID-19 was a driving factor for increased deaths in 2020 in addition to the small growth we would have expected due to Wyoming’s overall aging population. It’s not nearly as clear what caused the other ‘excess deaths’ but possibilities include COVID-19 related deaths that were missed or the avoidance of either routine or emergency medical care during the pandemic,” Beaudoin said.
Beaudoin noted the top five causes of death in Wyoming for 2020 were heart disease, cancer, COVID-19, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and related conditions and various types of accidents.
“Because of Wyoming’s historically high suicide rate, many people have shown interest in suicide data,” Beaudoin said. “We have sadly seen an upward trend in suicides with some ups and downs over the last 10 years. There was an increase last year from the previous year, but it was not as large as a jump as we have sometimes seen in the past.”
In 2020, 181 suicides were recorded among Wyoming residents compared to 170 in 2019, 148 in 2018, 157 in 2017, 143 in 2016, 155 in 2015, 121 in 2014, 129 in 2013, 171 in 2012 and 129 in 2011.
“Deaths attributed to overdoses are another area of interest where we have seen both annual increase and decreases over time,” Beaudoin said. “One trend of note over the last few years has been a growing percentage of overdose deaths caused by illicit drugs rather than prescription drugs.”
In 2020, 89 overdose deaths were recorded among Wyoming residents compared to 81 in 2019, 65 in 2018, 60 in 2017, 94 in 2016, 95 in 2015, 107 in 2014, 96 in 2013, 99 in 2012 and 81 in 2011.
“It does not appear the pandemic had a significant statistical effect on Wyoming births, marriages or divorces last year,” Beaudoin said.
The number of births among Wyoming residents continued the significant downward trend that has existed for several years with 6,127 in 2020 compared with 6,567 in 2019. The high over the past decade was in 2015 with 7,716 resident births.
There were 3,899 marriages recorded in Wyoming last year compared to 4,056 in 2019, with 2,169 divorces in 2020 compared with 2,199 in 2019.
VSS promotes and protects the health of Wyoming residents by serving as the official custodian of all vital records in the state and by disseminating health. For more information about VSS, visit https://health.wyo.gov/admin/vitalstatistics/ online.