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Covid-19: The pandemic causes the largest drop in life expectancy in Western countries since World War II | Society


In 2019, on average, a Spanish woman lived to be 86 years and six months. In 2020, this data sank a year and a half. The drop is even greater in the United States (one year and eight months) and similar to that of Lithuania (15 months). These are some of the 29 countries whose life expectancy falls due to the coronavirus hit has been analyzed by the University of Oxford in a study published this Monday. The main conclusion is catastrophic: the health crisis has led to the largest contraction in life expectancy in Western countries since the Second World War. Spain is among the worst unemployed in this index. It is the second in which women have lost more months of life and is the fifth among men.

The study Quantifying the impacts of the covid-19 pandemic through life expectancy losses: a population-level study of 29 countries compares data for the United States, Chile, and most European countries. It analyzes the life expectancy of each country, that is, the average age of all the people who died in a specific period. In this case, throughout 2019, the year in which the pandemic began. “The fact that our results highlight such a large impact directly attributable to the pandemic shows how devastating COVID has been for many countries,” Ridhi Kashyap, co-author of the study published in the journal, told Reuters. Journal of Epidemiology. “The magnitude of the losses seen in 2020 has not been seen since World War II in many Western European countries such as Spain, England and Wales, Italy, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Portugal, with data available for the 20th century ”, explains the Oxford University study.

10/28/20 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for Covid-19 (coronavirus) patients at Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.  Barcelona.  Barcelona, ​​October 28, 2020 [ALBERT GARCIA]

The coronavirus pandemic causes the largest demographic crisis in Spain since the Civil War

Among the countries analyzed, the one that suffers the most from the pandemic in terms of life expectancy is the United States. This index fell in 2020 among men to 74 and a half years (two years and three months less than in 2019) and among women, to 80 years (one year and eight months less). Precisely the United States – whose life expectancy is among the lowest of the 29 analyzed – is the country that has registered the most deaths since the beginning of the pandemic (almost 700,000).

In the United States, the drop in life expectancy was much more pronounced among men than among women, about seven months. This pattern is repeated, although not as pronounced, in most of the countries analyzed. Various studies have shown that men are more sensitive to the worst consequences of the virus. One of the exceptions is Spain, where the Oxford University analysis shows that life expectancy fell slightly more for women than for men.

Thus, after the United States, the country in which life expectancy decreased the most among women was Spain (from 86 and a half in 2019 to 85 in 2020), followed by Lithuania and Bulgaria. Among men, Spain is the fifth most affected, with a fall of a year and a half (from 81 years in 2019 to just over 79 and seven months in 2020), surpassed by the US, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Poland.

The drop in life expectancy in Spain, reduced to 2012 levels, It is the largest decrease recorded in the historical series of the National Institute of Statistics, which begins in 1975, a data set that grows uphill almost continuously until 2020.

Spain, at the forefront in the fall of the index in women

Despite these data, Spain is the one with the highest life expectancy among women of the 29 analyzed by the University of Oxford. However, the leadership has suffered during the pandemic: in 2019 the Spanish were 11 months ahead of the Swiss, but the difference has been reduced to just two weeks. Among men, however, Spain falls to seventh place, surpassed by Norway, Switzerland or Iceland. In 2019 he was in sixth place. At a global level, based on the figures from Our World in Data in 2019, Spain is one of the countries with the highest life expectancy in the world, only surpassed by Monaco, San Marino, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Cayman Islands, Switzerland, Andorra and Singapore.

This analysis from the University of Oxford is limited in understanding the effect of the pandemic on global life expectancy. Does not include figures for Brazil, the second country hardest hit by the coronavirus (600,000 deaths), or from India (450,000), the third. In total, according to Johns Hopkins University, 4.7 million people have died from covid since the beginning of the crisis. In Spain, more than 86,000 people have died from coronavirus, according to the Ministry of Health – this calculation does not include thousands of deaths without a diagnostic test at the beginning of the pandemic.

It is possible that life expectancy will continue to worsen globally once the 2021 data is known. Despite the fact that vaccines have substantially improved the situation (especially in rich countries, with greater immunization coverage), throughout so far this year there have been many more deaths (2.88 million) than in all of 2020 (1.88).

Diego Ramiro, director of the Institute of Economy, Geography and Demography of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), believes that, although many people have died from coronavirus in Spain throughout 2021, the blow to life expectancy will not be as severe as in 2020. He considers that “normal” is that life expectancy will soon return to 2019 levels, but “this will depend on the collateral effects that the covid has left us, which could lead to a slower increase of life expectancy ”. “Spain suffered the worst part of the pandemic in early 2020, during the first wave. Hence, life expectancy has dropped so much. Other countries, which suffered more in the second part of 2020 or early 2021, and with a greater rejection of vaccines, may still suffer significant declines ”, adds Ramiro.

Age differences

The Oxford University study does not only disaggregate by sex. It also estimates how mortality in each age group has affected the variation in life expectancy in each country. The virus has been primed especially with those over 80 years of age, hence in Spain, of the year and six months that the life expectancy of women has worsened, regardless of their age, one year corresponds to mortality in the group of those over 80, more than five months to the 60 to 80 range and around a month to those under 60. Among men, the fall of one year and five months is distributed more evenly in the elderly: eight months in people over 80, another eight in people between 60 and 80 years old and one month in those under 60.

These data are not substantially different in the rest of European countries, but the difference with respect to the United States is striking. Among men, life expectancy – which has fallen by one year and eight months – has worsened to a greater extent due to mortality among those under 60 years of age (one year) than among those over 80 (six months).


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