Researchers now claim that Covid-19 pandemic could cause a short-term decline in life expectancy in many regions of the world, unless the spread of the disease is contained.
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, examined the impact of COVID-19-related deaths on life expectancy for four broad world regions across multiple rates of infection and age groups.
“Our study provides the first assessment of the potential impact of Covid-19 on period life expectancies according to a range of scenarios of prevalence rates over a one-year period,” said study author Guillaume Marois from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria.
Period life expectancy is a measure of the number of years that an average person may expect to live.
Improved healthcare, socioeconomic conditions, and education are among the key factors influencing our health and how long we live.
Life expectancy has been used as a measure of human development across countries and regions. Indeed, over the past century, life expectancy has increased significantly in many regions of the world.
In the new study, researchers built a microsimulation model that simulates the probability of getting infected by Covid-19, the probability of dying from it, and the probability of dying from another cause for a period of one year, taking into account the different fatality rates from the disease for different age groups.
They then calculated the impact of Covid-19 on life expectancy by reconstructing life tables and life expectancies from the simulation and comparing them with those used for the inputs.
They found that at very low prevalence rates, the Covid-19 pandemic would not affect life expectancy, but at prevalence rates of only two per cent, it could cause a drop in life expectancy in countries where average life expectancy is high – roughly around 80 years.
The new study provides an important first estimate of the impact of Covid-19 on life expectancy, but new developments in healthcare or broader impacts of the pandemic on healthcare access or economic systems could also affect mortality rates and life expectancies.