Covid-19 Pandemic Caused The Biggest Drop In Life Expectancy Since WWII: Oxford Study

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Sep 28, 2021 02:36 PM +05:30 IST
Covid-19 Pandemic Caused The Biggest Drop In Life Expectancy Since WWII: Oxford StudyA representative image for coronavirus
  • As per the study published by the scientists from the University of Oxford's Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, the coronavirus pandemic has led to the most significant drop in life expectancy since World War II.

As the world is still trying to find the escape window from the global health crisis, scientists from the University of Oxford's Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science published a study, according to which the coronavirus pandemic cut life expectancy in 2020 by the most since World War II.

The Covid-19 pandemic caused life expectancy reductions in Western Europe that were unprecedented since World War II and they exceeded those seen in Central and Eastern European countries following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the study highlighted.

In 22 of the 29 nations analysed in the study, which included the United States and Chile, along with European region, life expectancy has decreased by more than six months since 2019. Overall, life expectancy decreased in 27 of the 29 countries involved in this research.

According to data, as of now, nearly 5 million people have died due to the SARS-CoV-2 caused disease around the world. However, the majority of life expectancy decline across countries, could be attributed to official Covid-19 fatalities, said the University.

Dr Ridhi Kashyap, who is the co-lead author of the study, said: "The fact that our results highlight such a large impact that is directly attributable to Covid-19 shows how devastating a shock it has been for many countries."

Women in 15 countries and men in 10 countries were found to have a lower birth expectancy in 2020 than in 2015, a year in which life expectancy was already impacted by a severe flu season.

Dr José Manuel Aburto, the co-author of the study, which was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, said: "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 World War II."

However, he claimed that the magnitude of the life expectancy losses was stark across most of the countries studied, stating that 22 nations included in the study experienced larger losses than half a year in 2020. According to Aburto, females in 8 countries and males in 11 countries lost more than a year.

"To contextualise, it took on average 5.6 years for these countries to achieve a one-year increase in life expectancy recently: progress wiped out over the course of 2020 by Covid-19", he added.

The study found that males experienced greater declines in life expectancy than females in the majority of the 29 countries studied. Males in the United States experienced the greatest declines in life expectancy, with a 2.2-year drop compared to 2019 levels, followed by Lithuanian males—1.7 years.

Kashyap noted that the significant decreases in life expectancy seen in the US could be explained in part by the significant increase in mortality at working ages shown in 2020. Additionally, she said: "In the United States, 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."

"We urgently call for the publication and availability of more disaggregated data from a wider range of countries, including low- and middle-income countries, to better understand the impacts of the pandemic globally," she added.

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