COVID-19 caused biggest decrease in life expectancy since WWII: Study
The COVID-19 pandemic led to biggest decrease in life expectancy since World War II, and wiped out years of progress on mortality, according to a study published by the University of Oxford. The research team assembled an unprecedented dataset on mortality from 29 countries, spanning most of Europe, the US, and Chile - countries for which official death registrations for 2020 had been published.
Twenty-seven countries saw reductions in life expectancy in 2020
The study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, found that 27 of the 29 countries saw reductions in life expectancy in 2020, and at a scale which wiped out years of progress on mortality. Women in 15 countries and men in 10 countries were found to have a lower expectancy at birth in 2020 than in 2015.
Such large magnitudes of declines were last observed during WWII
"For Western European countries such as Spain, England, and Wales, Italy, Belgium, among others, the last time such large magnitudes of declines in life expectancy at birth were observed in a single year was during WWII," said the study's co-lead author Jose Manuel Aburto.
Females in eight countries experienced losses larger than a year
"However, the scale of the life expectancy losses was stark across most countries studied, with 22 countries included in the study experiencing larger losses than half a year in 2020," Aburto from Oxford's Leverhulme Center for Demographic Science (LCDS) said. The researchers noted that females in eight countries and males in 11 countries experienced losses larger than a year.
Males saw larger life expectancy declines than females
It took on average 5.6 years for these countries to achieve a one-year increase in life expectancy recently, while the progress was erased over the course of 2020 by COVID-19. Across most of the 29 countries, males saw larger life expectancy declines than females. The largest declines in life expectancy were observed among males in the US followed by Lithuanian males (1.7 years).
Notable increase in mortality at working ages observed in 2020
"The large declines in life expectancy observed in the US can partly be explained by the notable increase in mortality at working ages observed in 2020," said study co-lead author, Ridhi Kashyap from LCDS.
Most life expectancy reductions attributed to official COVID-19 deaths: Study
"In the US, increases in mortality in the under 60 age group contributed most significantly to life expectancy declines, whereas, across most of Europe, increases in mortality above age 60 contributed more significantly," Kashyap said. The team's analysis also shows that most life expectancy reductions across different countries were attributable to the official COVID-19 deaths.