Analysis of Sweden versus UK COVID-19 outcomes

“Sweden, Covid and lockdown – a look at the data” (The Spectator (UK), May 17, 2021) should be interesting for Church of Sweden adherents.

Sweden currently has Europe’s highest COVID-19 “case” rate, but a fairly low COVID-19 death rate compared to other European nations.

One of the interesting charts is “population-weighted density” (i.e., how dense is the average person’s neighborhood in Sweden compared to other countries):

Swedes are actually packed together more tightly than Germans, despite Swedish ownership of a big area of uninhabited land up north.

What about Stayin’ Alive, the thing that most of us insist on doing even when the other 8 billion folks on the planet say that we wouldn’t be missed?

Even in 2020, the Swedes had a low rate of excess deaths compared to other European nations of similar density (see above). The Swedes should also have a lower rate going forward because they didn’t have a 15 months of lockdowns in which people were unable to exercise and maintain mental health. And they didn’t lose as much economically, which means they’ll have better public health going forward (since they won’t have impoverished themselves the way that other European nations did):

None of this will convince Church of Shutdown members, of course, but I thought readers might be interested to see these data from a 200-year-old current affairs magazine. And maybe it is time to buy Swedish stocks! Unless Nature runs out of coronavirus variants, it seems safe to assume that this coming fall will feature soul- and economy-destroying lockdowns in many countries while Sweden remains open.


11 thoughts on “Analysis of Sweden versus UK COVID-19 outcomes

  1. Care to explain why the shut down Finland is doing better than the Swedes in almost all metrics, with nary a 0.1% of loss of GDP growth?

    • An explanation is in the article and in the above-cited figure! (though, as noted above, none of these data will convince any Church of Shutdown worshipers) Lithuania, Norway, and Finland have very low population-weighted population density. That’s perhaps why the NYT, back in April 2020, thought that Britain, France, Ireland were the appropriate comparison countries.

      (but with modern Coronascience we can see that the best time to form a hypothesis, e.g., that Finland is the most obvious comparison nation to Sweden, is after all of the data are received; and maybe population density isn’t explanatory because Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Slovakia are all low in density yet were near the top of the world’s COVID-19 death rate statistics)

      If I had to guess why Finland is doing well economically, the guess would be that the country has huge reserves of natural resources, e.g., timber and metals. Although of course there is no inflation, wood is now retailing for 3X what it cost prior to March 2020. That’s a good trend for a country where forestry is a big percentage of GDP (see ).

      Not too many folks in Finland are going to be unhappy reading (“Lumber prices seem to set a new record almost daily, now up 67% this year and up 340% from a year ago, according to Random Lengths, a wood products industry tracking firm.”)

  2. Freddy Sayers had Johan Giesecke in a follow-up interview on Unherd TV in April. The discussion touch on the question of why was Sweden an outlier compared to the other Nordic countries.

    Johan Giesecke disagrees: “The differences between Sweden and its neighbours are much bigger than people realise from the outside — different systems, different cultural traditions…If you compare Sweden to other European countries [such as the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium] it’s the other way round. On the ranking of excess mortality, Sweden is somewhere in the middle or below the middle of European countries. So I think it’s really Norway and Finland that are the outliers more than Sweden.”

  3. The “COVID-19 death rate” plot is almost worthless since it shows death rates normalized to population for the last 7 days only.

    You could pick any number of 7 day periods over the last 14 months and end up with completely random permutations of the countries in the display

    • G: Those data aren’t worthless if you want to decide whether or not to leave your bunker and, if so, whether to double-mask or triple-mask!

    • Phil: is that the reason why you included it?

      Deaths lag infections a lot, so how would the number of deaths in the last 7 days help me decide whether to go out today?

  4. On the question of whether or not we can expect more shutdowns in the future: in their last quarterly earnings call, Pfizer reported that the Covid vaccine will be a “durable” source of revenue for the company [1]. This means that the scientists who know more about the Covid vaccine than anyone in the world do not believe that the Covid vaccine will completely stop Covid; they foresee a need for booster shots through 2024. So in early 2021 it was “lockdown because not enough people are vaccinated,” in late 2021 and early 2022 it will be “lockdown because not enough people have gotten their booster shots.” And if you thought it was hard getting everyone vaccinated now, wait until you try to get them to all come in for a booster shot every six months…

    So the statement that it is safe to say we will have Covid forever is not just your opinion, it is also the opinion of the experts who made the vaccine.


    • Sadly, Pfizer’s strategists have been paying attention to the Goldman Sachs’ analysis reported earlier this year.

      The GS report cited in the Ars piece stated “the potential to deliver “one shot cures” is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically engineered cell therapy, and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies…”

      No highly paid professional in his or her right mind would want to kill the goose laying the golden eggs? To date, many would argue Pfizer’s marketing and especially control of mass media has been second to none. They not only got the product to market first, but they ensured political advantage by timing the release of the trial results until right after the elections.

      Aside from the tremendous upside in earnings, slide 7 of the Q1 presentation outlines what’s next in the COVID-19 vaccine pipeline: a booster trial readout in early July, followed by EUA application in the US submitted mid-July.

      The 16-85yr. biologics license application is planned for end of May. Separately, the company plans EUA applications for 2-5yrs. and 5-11 yrs. (early September) and a 0.5 – 2 yr. EUA submission in late November.

      The 2021 guidance boosted the COVID-19 vaccine revenue from $15B to $26B. There is way too much money in play for this to stop any time soon.

  5. > maybe it is time to buy Swedish stocks!

    Better hurry, while the Swedish economy is still solvent. Currently 7% (and growing!) of the Swedish population is immigrants on welfare (only 6.1% of “newcomers” were able to find full-time work that was not subsidized by the Swedish government), with an average of 6 children per family (compared to the native average of 1.7). At that rate, within 2 generations, and assuming children mostly turn out like their parents, the majority will be of “foreign heritage” and dependant on welfare from the native Swedes.


  6. Why not compare to Denmark? Similar, though slightly more dense than Sweden. Their mortality rate decreased(!) during the pandemic, whereas Sweden is up 10%. GDP growth was only .5% behind. Could that difference in GDP be due to Denmark not spending as much as the Swedes to care for their larger share of Covid infected citizens?

  7. PhilG: “Swedes are actually packed together more tightly than Germans, despite Swedish ownership of a big area of uninhabited land up north.”

    Not really surprising.

    Using the basic way of determining population density, Germany is 10x as densely populated as Sweden. That’s kind of misleading because the very-large majority of people in Sweden are much more packed together (the same sort of thing characterizes Canada too).

    Country Pop Mi^2 Pop/Mi^2
    Sweden 1.04E+07 173860 59.7
    Germany 8.38E+07 137988 607.1

    “Population-weighted density is the mean of the densities of subareas of a larger area weighted by the populations of those subareas. It is an alternative to the conventional density measure, total population divided by total area.”,population%20divided%20by%20total%20area.

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