The coronavirus pandemic could cause short-term decreases in life expectancy in many parts of the world, according to a new study.
Using a computer model, the researchers concluded that infection rates of only 2% could cause a drop in life expectancy in countries where average life expectancy is high (about 80 years).
At higher infection rates, the decline would be greater, especially in Europe and North America, according to the study published online Sept. 17 in the journal PLOS One.
“At 10% prevalence, the loss in life expectancy is likely to be above one year in high life-expectancy countries such as those in Europe and North America. At 50%, it would translate into three to nine years of life lost in high life-expectancy regions. In less developed regions, the impact is smaller given that there is already lower survival at older ages,” said study leader Guillaume Marois, a researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.
“However, even in the most affected regions, the life expectancy will likely recover once the pandemic is over,” Marois added in an institute news release.
Study co-author Sergei Scherbov noted that it took Europe decades for average life expectancy at birth to increase by six years — from 72.8 years in 1990 to 78.6 years in 2019.
“COVID-19 could thus set back this indicator in 2020 to the values observed some time ago,” he said.
“However, we do not know what is going to happen further. In many countries fatality from COVID is strongly decreasing, probably because the protocol of COVID treatment became better defined,” Scherbov added.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.
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