Life expectancy drastically declined with COVID-19, international study finds

More than 28 million extra years of human life were lost in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a BMJ study published Nov. 3.

Researchers from Oxford University performed a time series analysis of expected life expectancy changes in 37 upper-middle to high-income countries. Researchers also considered years of life lost, a metric measuring the degree of premature mortality through comparison of the ages of the deceased to their life expectancies.

Noted limitations of the study included restriction of data to countries with reliable data for the whole study period of 2000-2020 and lack of reporting of regional variability in reduction in life expectancy. Since the pandemic is ongoing, researchers added future studies should investigate its long-term burden.

Key findings: 

  • The highest fall in life expectancy occurred in Russia, where men lost 2.33 extra years at birth, and women 2.14 years, with the United States being second, with men losing 2.27 extra years, and women 1.61.

  • Reduction in life expectancy in men and women was observed in all countries studied except New Zealand, Taiwan, and Norway, where there was an increase in 2020. 

  • No evidence was found of a change in life expectancy in Denmark, Iceland and South Korea.

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