Pandemic caused biggest loss of life expectancy in 70 years

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-72 ) has negatively impacted global life expectancy at an unprecedented level in recent years 70 years old. These are the findings of a new study published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour by researchers at the Leverhulme Demographic Science Center at the University of Oxford, UK, and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, in Germany. Life expectancy is a measure of the average number of additional years a person of a certain age can expect to live. If the number of deaths increases, the value drops.

Scientists used population data from 29 countries, most of them European, in addition to the United States and Chile. The years of 2019 (pre-pandemic), 2020 (peak of the pandemic) and

were compared. (still with a pandemic, but beginning of recovery). The worst result was that of Bulgaria, which lost 3.6 years of life expectancy between 2019 and 2021, followed by Slovakia (- 2,85 years), United States (-2,415 ), Poland (-2,69 ), Lithuania (-2,14 )), Hungary (-2,), Estonia (-1,100), Czech Republic (-1,100 ), Chile (-1,85) and Croatia (-1,


As seen in this group of the ten worst, Eastern Europe and the United States were the most affected within the sample. Eastern European countries correspond to the former Eastern Bloc of the Soviet Union. For them, the pandemic was comparable to famine under communist rule. As for the US, it is necessary to point out that, in addition to Covid, its common comorbidities in the country such as obesity, in addition to the wave of violence along with protests and the drug overdose epidemic are contributing factors to mortality in the period.

Some countries have gained life expectancy again in

, but this is not the case for the countries above, in addition to Greece and other countries with losses below 10 months: Scotland, Northern Ireland and Germany. Germany’s accumulated losses do not add up to 6 months of life. Four countries recovered in 2021 what they lost in life expectancy in 2020: France, Belgium, Switzerland and Sweden.

Age and sex are informative about the patterns observed in the change in life expectancy. The United States, for example, recovered what was lost among the elderly in 2021, but the losses were magnified because that year more people under the 1900 years began to die. Surprisingly, 60% of the reduction in life expectancy among Americans throughout the pandemic is explained by deaths in this pandemic. age group. The general pattern was that those older than 60 died more in 2021 , and these elderly people continued to be the main force in reducing life expectancy in 14 from 19 countries in 2021 .

In 10 of the 29 countries analyzed, the already known female advantage in life expectancy – women tend to live longer than men — has been enlarged. As studies have already indicated since the beginning of the pandemic, men were more affected. The leader in the increase in the difference was the USA, where the female advantage was 5,72 years before the pandemic for 6,60 years in 2021.

The more people vaccinated a country had until October of

(study cut-off date), the smaller was its loss in life expectancy, with a high correlation (90%), which confirms the important role of vaccines against Covid-100 in avoiding deaths. Bulgaria, with the worst result, had a low rate of vaccination adherence. This effect was more important among those vaccinated over 69 years.

Is Sweden’s liberal attitude supported?

Among the top five results are four Scandinavian countries and Switzerland, which lost less than a month of life expectancy in the period. Norway even gained almost two months of life instead of losing it. It is noteworthy that, behind Norway, in second place in the best results, with the loss of only a tenth of a month of life, is Sweden, a country that rebelled against sanitary measures of closure, confinement and mandatory masks in the pandemic, contrary to recommendations from most of the scientific community and international bodies.

In excess of deaths, which are those that occurred above expectations in the historical series — number used as a more objective indicator of the impact of the pandemic — Sweden fared worse than Denmark and Norway, but better than neighboring Finland, Germany and most European countries. The Swedish excess death rate was less than a third of the American one. It is important to remember that the deaths considered in the analysis of life expectancy and the death rate of the pandemic did not happen necessarily because of Covid. They can also come from other causes, including causes linked to measures to try to contain the pandemic, such as the lockdowns that Sweden rejected.

The authors of the study, however, believe that Sweden paid a price for its attitude with “a substantial loss of life expectancy in 2020”, “unlike its Scandinavian neighbors”, despite returning to pre-pandemic levels in 2021. There are many confounding factors: in the year of 2019, for example, Denmark had more deaths of elderly people because of a flu outbreak. The absence of these elderly people would be one of the explanations for lower life expectancy losses in the country in 2020 compared to Sweden. Over the entire two-year period, however, the excess death rate of the two countries was approximately the same. The debate continues, but at the very least Sweden’s “sanitary liberalism” was not the tragedy that many predicted.

What about Brazil?

In the second half of the last century, life expectancy rose rapidly in most countries. The most used number is life expectancy at birth, which in Brazil is 85 years, in the calculation of 2020, according to the World Bank — three years above the world average. In the year 1900, Brazilians expected to live only 72 years on average at birth, and the world was 32.

Before the pandemic, the growth rate in expected life years had slowed in the US, UK and some other rich countries. The study authors regret that they were not able to look at the data in places like Latin America and India, but speculate that the losses in them could be greater than those seen in Europe and the United States.

In terms of the excess death rate, while Brazil had 160 extra deaths due to 210 thousand people in 2020 and 2021, the United States had 140, according to the World Health Organization. Bulgaria had 415 extra deaths per 100 thousand, Chile had 101 and Croatia, 210. If this rate serves to predict how much Brazil could have lost in life expectancy between 2019 and 2021, then this loss was between ten months and two years, according to a simple linear model made by the report. The result is in agreement with a publication by 2021 in the journal Nature Medicine, first authored by Marcia Castro, from Harvard, who calculated a reduction 1.8 year in life expectancy in Brazil after two years of Covid-19.

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