COVID-19: Life expectancy losses in western Europe comparable to WWII

Life expectancy reduced by over 1 year in 11 countries for men and 8 for women  

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 27 September 2021
COVID-19: Life expectancy losses in western Europe comparable to WWII
Photo: Philippe Put

Life expectancy at birth reduced in the United States of America, Chile and across Europe 2020 compared to 2019, according to a new study. Excess deaths due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, mostly among senior citizens, were behind the decline, the report added. 

Losses were recorded in 27 of the 29 countries studied, with the largest in the USA and Lithuania for the male population. Life expectancy at birth reduced by 2.2 and 1.7 years, respectively, in the two countries. 

Overall, life expectancy declined by over one year in more than 11 countries for males and eight for females. 

The increase in mortality in 2020 was “of a magnitude not witnessed since World War II” in countries in western Europe such as Spain, England and Wales, Italy, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Portugal, the report stated. 

In eastern Europe, so many fatalities were last recorded during the breakup of the Soviet Union, according to the analysis. 

Females  in 15 countries and men in 10 had lower life expectancies at birth in 2020 when compared to 2015, the study claimed. 

Males recorded larger losses in 2020 than females, except in Spain, Slovenia, Estonia and northern Ireland.

The findings of the research by the International Epidemiological Association was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology September 23, 2021. 

LIfe expectancy refers to the number of years a given group of newborns will live considering a uniform death rate, according to the authors of the paper. It is the most widely used metric of population health and longevity, they added. 

COVID-19 death rates were higher in people above the age of 65 years — the age group in which mortality rates reduced in the recent decades, improving the overall life expectancy, the report highlighted. It also stated:

The pandemic also indirectly affected mortality from other causes of death. Emerging evidence has highlighted the impacts of delayed treatments or avoidance of care-seeking for cancers or cardiovascular diseases resulting in increased mortality from these conditions, whereas lockdowns may have reduced the number of deaths due to accidents.

Among females, life expectancy in 2019 ranged from 78.6 years in Bulgaria to 86.5 years in Spain. Among males, the range was 71.4 years in Lithuania to 82.2 years in Switzerland.

At age 60 years, countries in eastern Europe and Scotland exhibited the lowest remaining life expectancy, whereas older females in France and Spain enjoyed the highest.

Between 2015 and 2019, all countries experienced increases in life expectancy at birth to some extent. The growth trend in individual countries was similar for life expectancy trends observed at age 60 years, emphasizing the importance of improvements in older-age survival, the researchers wrote in the report. 

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