COVID-19 cost 28 million years to live in 31 countries last year: study

More than 28 million years of life were lost in 2020 in 31 countries, according to a study published this week in the peer-reviewed journal. BMJ daily.

The United States was one of the countries with the highest number of years of life lost. Israel was one of the countries with the fewest lives lost, ranking at number nine.

The purpose of the study, which was led by Professor Nazrul Islam in the UK, aimed to estimate changes in life expectancy and years of life lost in 2020 associated with the COVID-19 crisis.

Islam looked at 37 upper-middle and upper-middle-income countries, where it felt the data would be complete and reliable. The reduction in life expectancy was calculated based on the difference between the observed and expected life expectancy in 2020 using the Lee-Carter model. The excess of years was based on the same calculation but using the standard life table of the World Health Organization.

“Life expectancy … is an indication of how long on average people can expect to survive if age-specific death rates remain constant for the rest of their lives,” the report said. “Years of life lost take into account the age of distribution of mortality by giving greater weight to deaths that occur at younger ages.”

The countries in which life expectancy fell the most were Russia, the United States and Bulgaria. Islam explained that this appears to have been largely affected by a high number of deaths in the younger population, especially among people under 65.

The highest excess years of life lost per 100,000 inhabitants were recorded in Bulgaria, Russia, Lithuania, the United States and Poland.

COVID-19 is seen in a blood vessel (illustrative). (credit: UNIVERSITY OF TEL AVIV)

In total, 31 countries lost 222 million years of life, 28.1 million more than expected. More years were lost in men than in women, according to the study. Additionally, years of life lost to COVID were more than five times higher than those lost to flu in 2015, a season that was considered moderately severe.

There were only three countries where people lived the longest: New Zealand, Taiwan, and Norway. In three countries there were no changes in life expectancy: Denmark, Iceland and South Korea.

These six countries also had no more years of life lost than expected, the study showed.

Islam said that “health care is certainly a critical factor” of why the life expectancy of some countries decreased more than others or lost more years of life, but “so is the ability to respond to emergencies such as the pandemic and equity in access to health care services. “

He said the US, in particular, “is known for having widespread inequalities in accessibility to health care, which could have contributed to such a large loss in 2020.”

The study, of course, was conducted on the basis of pre-vaccination figures. Israel, for example, only began dosing its most vulnerable population in late December 2020. As such, the statistics could look even more different this year depending on which countries were able to prevent COVID-19 deaths through inoculation.

The study shows that the pandemic and the political measures that countries took to stop the spread of the virus have had implications for mortality beyond deaths from COVID-19.

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