More than 20.5 million years of life may have been lost to the coronavirus pandemic in 81 countries of the world, according to a new study that exposes the fallacy that those who die would have soon done so even if they had not caught Covid-19.
While Covid deaths are often compared dismissively to those from flu, which kills many elderly and frail individuals every year, the study shows the coronavirus has taken a significantly greater toll. In those countries that are badly affected, the number of years of life lost to Covid is between two and nine times more than from seasonal flu.
Years of life lost is the difference between an individual’s age at death and their life expectancy. Men have fared substantially worse than women – their years of life lost were 44% higher. Even though it is older people who are most at risk of dying in richer countries, the greatest number of years of life lost was among people between the ages of 55 and 75.
Counting deaths can give the wrong idea of the impact of Covid-19, say the authors of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
“Several policy responses (or non-responses) have been motivated with the argument that Covid-19 is mostly killing individuals who, even in the absence of Covid-19, would have had few life years remaining,” writes Héctor Pifarré i Arolas of the Centre for Research in Health and Economics at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain, and international colleagues in the study.
“We wanted to provide a measure that was a response to that sort of criticism,” Pifarré told the Guardian.
Main Photo: A woman wearing face mask and mourns as she waiting for funeral service near coffin of their relative who died from Covid-19 at the Kucukcekmece Municipality Morgue in Istanbul, Turkey. EPA-EFE/SEDAT SUNA