Millions of years lost and life expectancies cut short in pandemic

Total of 28 million years taken last year by Covid-19 in 31 countries, research shows

Millions of years of life were cut and life expectancies shortened around the world by the Covid-19 pandemic last year, a study shows.

By comparing the lives lost to Covid-19 with the estimated life spans of those who died, researchers calculated that a total of more than 28 million “extra years” were lost in 31 countries in 2020.

The study assessed the effects of the pandemic on 37 countries, including England and Wales.

Researchers found reductions in life expectancy in men and women in all countries except New Zealand, Taiwan and Norway, which reported increases in 2020, and no change in Denmark, Iceland and South Korea.

The highest reductions in life expectancy were found in Russia, the US and Bulgaria.

The international group of academics, led by a team at the University of Oxford, calculated that life expectancy in England and Wales fell by a year. The findings were similar to those from Public Health England this year.

The number of years of life lost was higher than expected in all countries except Taiwan, New Zealand, Iceland, Denmark, South Korea and Norway.

In the other 31 countries, about 28 million years of life were lost in 2020, according to estimates, with higher rates of “excess years lost” among men compared with women.

The years of life lost as a result of the pandemic were more than five times higher than those associated with the seasonal influenza epidemic in 2015, said the article published in the BMJ.

“More than 28 million excess years of life were lost in 2020 in 31 countries, with a higher rate in men than women," the authors wrote.

Global estimates from Johns Hopkins University show the number of deaths from Covid-19 around the world has now passed 5 million.

But the World Health Organisation has said the true figure is much higher.

Updated: November 4th 2021, 12:56 AM