Years of progress made by several countries around the globe in improving the life expectancy of individuals were wiped out over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a new study that was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, 27 out of the 29 countries analysed suffered a loss in life expectancy.
The biggest declines in life expectancy were seen in males from the US and Lithuania, with a decline of 2.2 and 1.7 years compared to 2019 levels, respectively.
Life expectancy is the average age to which a newborn lives if current death rates continued for their whole life. It does not predict an actual lifespan.
Dr José Manuel Aburto, a 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 magnitudes of declines in life expectancy at birth were observed in a single year was during the second world war.”
The losses experienced were also larger than many would expect at first, with 22 countries experiencing a drop in life expectancy by more than one year. Most of the loss in life expectancy was directly attributed to COVID-19, even as scientists and experts widely agree that the quantum of deaths and cases across the globe have been vastly under-reported due to various reasons.
“Females in eight countries and males in 11 countries experienced losses larger than a year. To contextualise, it took on average 5.6 years for these countries to achieve a one-year increase in life expectancy recently: Progress wiped out over the course of 2020 by COVID-19,” Dr Aburto added.
“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 globally,” said Dr Ridhi Kashyap, fellow co-lead author.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)