Monday 8 February 2021

COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 population increase with freedom and level of democracy by February 2021


There appears to be a trend towards a greater number of deaths from COVID-19 per 100,000 population with increasing freedom and level of democracy. The results below were obtained by plotting COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 population against four different categories of freedom and democracy for 171 countries, where possible. 

The COVID-19 data used was published by Johns Hopkin University of Medicine at on the 5th February 2021.

Four indices of freedom or democracy for the same countries were obtained from the Wikipedia ‘ List of freedom indices’ available at They covered data gathered from 2018 to 2020 and were:

  1. Freedom in the World
  2. Index of Economic Freedom
  3. Press Freedom Index
  4. Democracy Index


All four indices appeared to show a positive correlation between COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 population and increasing freedom or democracy. Some of the differences appear to be significant.

The data is skewed and not normally distributed. Data can also cover quite a range from low to high values of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 population for each freedom or democracy category within in each chart


The charts below show both a distribution of each countries value for a given freedom or democracy index as blue dots, and the data described in the form of boxplots.

Figure 1. Deaths per 100K population for countries identified as free, Partly free and Not free.

Figure 2. Deaths per 100K population for countries identified with Economic freedom, categories Free, Mostly free, Moderately free, Moderately unfree and Repressed.

Figure 3. Deaths per 100K population for countries identified with press Freedom categories Good, Satisfactory. Some problems, Difficult and Very serious.

Figure 4. Deaths per 100K population for countries identified withcategories of Democracy: Full deomocracy, Flawed democracy, Hybrid regime and Authoritarian regime.


The data for the box plots is summarised in the charts below. The red boxes in the tables of percentage differences between any two sets of data within an analysis suggest the data is significant.

Table 1. Data used for figure 1 on Freedom in the World

Table 2. Data used for figure 2 on Economic freedmom

Table 3. Data used for figure 3 on Press Freedom

Table 4. Data used for figure 4 on Democracy index

The full spreadsheets with all the raw data and calculation are available from the author on request.


I simply visualise the correlation between increase in COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 population with increases in freedom and democracy. It requires a more detailed analysis of the way different countries experienced and tackled their epidemics, to identify which factors might be responsible for these trends.

Areas to consider could include:

  • Acceptable balance of increase risk of deaths per 100,000 population against temporary maintenance or loss of freedoms
  • Ability to take action in the face of a growing epidemic.
  • Impact of differing political and economic viewpoints on speed of decision making process.
  • Local factors that impact on public willingness to accept decisions relating to the epidemic.

Chris Thomas, 08 February 2021