The COVID pandemic caused an unprecedented increase in the number of deaths around the world, leading to a reduction in life expectancy. In last year’s research, we found that 2020 sees significant life lossincluding more than two years in the US and one year in England and Wales.
In a new study published in Natural human behavior, we have now shown that, by 2021, life expectancy has recovered somewhat in most of Western Europe while Eastern Europe and the United States see further losses. However, only Norway will surpass pre-pandemic life expectancy in 2021, and everywhere is worse off than would be without the pandemic.
We know that the outlook for 2021 is mixed, with the excitement of vaccine deployment fueled by a large number of infections due to a host of new and highly transmissible variants. cause.
To assess the impact of these changes on life expectancy, our research team at the University of Oxford Leverhulme . Center for Demographic Sciences and Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research collects data from 29 predominantly European countries (plus Chile and the US).
Life expectancy is a metric we use to summarize a country’s mortality pattern in a given year. It is calculated based on all-cause deaths, so it does not depend on the accuracy of recording COVID deaths and can give us a broader picture of how pandemic affects mortality.
Longevity is not a prediction of the lifespan of a child born today. Instead, it is the number of years someone born today can expect to live, if they live their entire life at the current year’s mortality rate (or 2021 in the case of our study). So that’s a snapshot of the current fatalities, if they continue without any improvement or deterioration.
Demographers find life expectancy to be a very useful composite measure of population mortality because it is comparable across countries and over time. A large shift up or down can tell us something has changed dramatically, like that happened with COVID. The size of these droplets allowed us to compare mortality shocks across time and location.
Longevity in COVID-19
We found more country-to-country variation in the pandemic’s impact on mortality in 2021 than in 2020. Life expectancy fell for most of the countries we studied. study in 2020, excluding Denmark and Norway. But in 2021, for some countries, life expectancy is improving from 2020, while in others, life expectancy is even worse.
The further decline we see in Eastern Europe can be attributed to the region avoiding some early COVID wave in 2020combined with lower vaccine absorption when big wave arrived in 2021. Bulgaria is the best example, with a staggering loss of 3.5 years from 2019 (1.5 years in 2020 and two years in 2021).
Although one early vaccine deploymentThe United States continues to break away from Western Europe with an additional loss of nearly three months in 2021 after losing more than two years in 2020. The United States already lower vaccine dose and enhanced absorption compared with peers in Western Europe, will likely account for part of this difference in 2021.
But life expectancy in America has lagged behind European countries over many years, so some of these U.S. disadvantages may reflect potential health vulnerabilities exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. While most losses in their lifespan can be attributed to to confirmed COVID deathsThe US also continues to see an increase in the number of deaths due to drug overdose.
England and Wales fell somewhere in the middle, rising 2.1 months in 2021 after losing almost a year in 2020. Even for countries that perform relatively well, COVID is off the rails. in the trajectory of mortality improvement that we normally see every year.
Life expectancy by country, 2019–2021
Overall, mortality shifts to a slightly younger population in 2021 than it does in 2020. This is likely due to better vaccine coverage and more preventive measures in older age groups. .
Indeed, countries with better vaccine coverage for people over 60 had better life expectancy. The over-80 mortality rate in the US is even back to pre-pandemic levels. But overall lifespan worse in 2021 due to a worsening under-60 mortality rate.
We also compare recent declines in life expectancy with historical crises that have resulted in significant deaths. Losses of the magnitude we have seen during the pandemic have not been recorded since the second world war in Western Europe, or since the breakup of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe.
Meanwhile, previous flu outbreaks have seen life expectancy take a hit quite quickly. The impact of COVID has so far been larger and more persistent, based on the popular claim that it is “like the flu”.
Limit and look forward
Because life expectancy estimates require detailed data on the number of deaths by age and sex, we were not able to calculate life expectancy accurately for all countries in the world in this study.
We know that countries like Brazil and Mexico They will suffer a major loss in life expectancy in 2020 and they are likely to suffer further losses in 2021. COVID mortality rates in countries like India may never be quantified due to limitations. restrictions on data, but we know death fee was important.
Looking ahead, prospects for longevity the recovery in 2022 and beyond remains ambiguous. We expect continued divergence due to country differences in vaccine and booster use, previous infections, and continued (or lack of) public health measures. ).
The full impact of delayed health care and ongoing health system strain remains to be seen. New variants that evade existing immunity are likely to emerge, and the longer-term impact of COVID-19 infection on the health of survivors is a big unknown.
While we expect that mortality rates will return to pre-pandemic levels (and even begin to improve again), mortality rates persist in the UK and elsewhere in 2022 hint that we didn’t quite bounce from dead The impact of the pandemic and the path to recovery remain uncertain.
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