The Covid pandemic has caused the biggest drop in life expectancy in Western Europe since World War II, according to a study.
Data from most of the 29 countries – spanning most of Europe, the United States and Chile – which were analyzed by scientists saw reductions in life expectancy last year and at a scale that has wiped out years of progress.
In the United States, the largest declines in life expectancy were seen among men, dropping 2.2 years from 2019 levels, followed by Lithuanian men (1.7 years).
The losses in life expectancy have exceeded those recorded at the time of the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc in Central and Eastern Europe, according to the study conducted by scientists at the Leverhulme Center for Demographic Science in Oxford.
Dr José Manuel Aburto, co-lead author of the study, said: “For Western European countries such as Spain, England and Wales, Italy, Belgium, among others , the last time such large declines in life expectancy at birth were observed in a single year was during World War II.
The conclusions are contained in a paper published in the International Journal of Epidemiology after analyzing the 29 countries for which official death records from last year were published. In total, 27 experienced a reduction in their life expectancy.
Last week, the Office for National Statistics estimated that the life expectancy of men in the UK fell for the first time in 40 years due to the impact of Covid-19. A boy born between 2018 and 2020 is expected to live to age 79, compared to 79.2 for the period 2015-17, according to the ONS.
Aburto said the magnitude of the loss in life expectancy was striking in most of the countries studied, with 22 of them experiencing losses of more than six months in 2020.
“Women in eight countries and men in 11 countries suffered losses of more than a year. To contextualize, it took on average 5.6 years for these countries to recently achieve a one-year increase in life expectancy: progress wiped out in 2020 by the Covid-19.
Men have experienced greater declines in life expectancy than women in most of the 29 countries. Most of the reductions in life expectancy in different countries were attributable to official deaths from Covid, according to the newspaper.
Dr Ridhi Kashyap, another lead co-author, said researchers were aware of several issues with counting Covid deaths, such as inadequate testing or misclassification. However, he added that “the fact that our results highlight such a large impact which is directly attributable to Covid-19 shows what a devastating shock it has been for many countries”.
“We urgently call for the publication and availability of more disaggregated data from a wider range of countries, including low- and middle-income countries, to better understand the impacts of the pandemic at scale. global. “
The ONS estimates at the start of the month showed variations between different parts of the UK in terms of life expectancy, which refers to the average age a newborn would live if current death rates continued throughout their lives.
Male life expectancy fell in England from 79.5 years in 2015-2017 to 79.3 years in 2018-2, and in Scotland from 77 to 76.8 years. But it edged up in Northern Ireland from 78.4 to 78.7, while remaining broadly unchanged in Wales at 78.3.