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  • Writer's pictureMelinda Mills

Covid-19: Life expectancy is down but what does this mean?

Animation by Dr. Jonas Schöley

Read this comprehensive BBC article published 23 September 2021, which highlights LCDS's most recent work on COVID-19 and life expectancy.

An excerpt from the article above featuring our own Ridhi Kashyap and Jose Manual Aburto.

'Unprecedented impact'

The UK is far from alone in seeing these large drops in life expectancy for 2020.

An analysis of 29 countries across Europe, the US and Chile, shows falls in almost all of them, often reversing years of improvements.

And the US suffered the biggest decreases, with a fall of more than two years for men, according to researchers at the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, at the University of Oxford.

The pandemic had a "very sizeable and unprecedented impact" on death rates and life expectancy, Dr Ridhi Kashyap, associate professor of social demography and one of the study's lead authors, says.

And losses of more than a year are particularly unusual: "This is something that we really don't have since World War Two for most of Western Europe - and since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, in the 1990s, in Eastern Europe," Dr Kashyap says.

And in many countries, life expectancy fell even below the 2015 figure, already a bad year due to a strong flu season.

Given the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic, a widespread fall is unsurprising, co-lead author Dr Jose Manuel Aburto says.

But, he says: "What is surprising is the magnitude of the fall."

The US was particularly hard hit as Covid death rates increased in the working-age population, rather than being limited to the older population, a pattern repeated in several Eastern European countries and to some extent in Scotland, Dr Aburto says.

But females in Finland and both sexes in Denmark and Norway showed slight improvements, while losses were small in countries such as Estonia and Iceland.

The full article is forthcoming in the International Journal of Epidemiology.


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