US males suffered the biggest drop in life expectancy of 2.2 years. The last time such large magnitudes of declines in life expectancy at birth were observed (in Western countries) in a single year was during World War II, the study found.
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.
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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)