The Covid pandemic has wiped out more than a year of life expectancy for men in England and Wales, according to a new report.
An Oxford University study in 29 countries shows that the pandemic has caused the biggest drop in life expectancy since World War II.
At the 2020 death rate, English and Welsh men aged 60 would live 1.04 years less than in 2019.
And those born in 2020 would live 1.15 years less than in 2019 and 0.59 years less than in 2015.
Women are doing slightly better: 60-year-olds will lose 0.88 of a year in 2020 compared to 2019 and only 0.18 compared to 2015.
Researchers from the University of Oxford analyzed how death rates have changed in 29 countries during the pandemic. The difference between life expectancy at birth between 2019 and 2020 is shown above
Newborn girls would live 0.91 years less than if they were born in 2019 and 0.24 years less than 2015.
The team from the University of Oxford analyzed death rates in 29 countries, mainly in Europe, the US and Chile.
Overall life expectancy had fallen in 27 countries and in 22 of these it had fallen by six months or more by 2020.
Women in eight countries and men in 11 countries experienced a drop in life expectancy of more than a year.
American men took the biggest hit, with their average lifespan shortening by 2.2 years compared to 2019, with Lithuanian men in second place with 1.7.
On average, it took these countries over the past 5.6 years to increase life expectancy by a year, so the pandemic took many places back to 2014.
Of the 29 countries, only men and women in Denmark and Norway and women in Finland avoided a decline in life expectancy.
Study co-lead author Dr. José Manuel Aburto, from Oxford’s Leverhulme Center for Demographic Science, said: ‘For Western European countries such as Spain, England and Wales, Italy and Belgium, among others, the last time such large magnitude decreases in life expectancy at birth were observed in a single year was during World War II.’
The biggest drop since then and before Covid happened when the Eastern Bloc fell apart.
dr. Aburto added: “In 22 countries included in our study, they suffered greater losses than six months in 2020.
“Women in eight countries and men in 11 countries suffered losses greater than a year.
“To contextualize, it took these countries on average 5.6 years to recently achieve a one-year increase in life expectancy: progress was wiped out by COVID-19 over the course of 2020.”
The Oxford team collected an unprecedented dataset on mortality from 29 countries, for which official death registries for 2020 had been published.
Their result, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, showed that 27 out of 29 countries saw life expectancy decline in 2020 and on a scale that wiped out years of advances in mortality.
Women in 15 countries and men in 10 countries were found to have a lower birth expectancy in 2020 than in 2015, a year in which life expectancy was already negatively impacted by a significant flu season.
Co-lead author, Dr. Ridhi Kashyap said: “The large declines in life expectancy seen in the US can be partly explained by the remarkable increase in working-age deaths observed in 2020.
“In the US, increases in mortality in the under-60 age group contributed most significantly to the decline in life expectancy, while in most of Europe the increase in mortality above the age of 60 contributed more.”
He added: “While we know there are several issues associated with counting COVID-19 deaths, such as insufficient testing or misclassification, the fact that our results highlight such a large impact does not allow for direct writing is to COVID-19, how devastating a 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 global impact of the pandemic.”
Life expectancy, also referred to as period life expectancy, refers to the average age at which a newborn will live if current mortality rates persist throughout their lives.
It does not predict actual life.
It provides a snapshot of current mortality conditions and allows a comparison of the magnitude of the pandemic’s mortality impacts across countries and populations.