More than 20.5 million years of life lost to Covid-19, according to researchers

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  • Many people all over the world have lost their lives due to Covid-19
  • Researchers say these numbers do, however, not reflect how premature many of these deaths were
  • A new study has estimated the number of years of life lost as a result of Covid-19

Fully grasping the tragedy of lives lost due to Covid-19 involves more than counting the dead. Researchers say it also involves taking into consideration how many of these deaths were premature.  

A team of researchers took on the task of describing the impact of Covid-19 on the number of years of life lost (YLL) due to the virus. Findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports

Calculating years of life lost

The researchers used data from 81 countries that reported over 1.2 million deaths attributed to Covid-19, and also took life expectancy into consideration.

An estimated 20 507 518 years of life have been lost – across the 81 countries studied – due to Covid-19, which amounts to an average of 16 years per person who died. 

“As countries are at different stages of the pandemic trajectory, this study is a snapshot of the impacts of Covid-19 on years of life lost (YLL) as of January 6, 2021,” the authors of the study stated.

YLL due to Covid-19 compared with other causes of mortality 

“To put the impacts of Covid-19 on YLL in perspective, we compare it against the premature mortality impacts of three other global common causes of death: heart conditions (cardiovascular diseases), traffic accidents (transport injuries), and the seasonal “flu”, the researchers explained. 

Compared to other causes of mortality, YLL caused by Covid-19 is 2–9 times greater than that caused by seasonal flu, but only a quarter to half of YLL rates associated with heart conditions.  

Age and YLL

Covid-19 mortality trends indicate that most people who die of the virus are elderly, mostly due to these individuals suffering from underlying conditions. The average age of death according to the present study is 72.9 years.

Although Covid-19 mortality rates among the elderly is high, researchers noted that “only a fraction of the YLL can be attributed to the individuals in the oldest age brackets”.

They went on to say that individuals at risk of dying of Covid-19 (like the elderly) had a shorter remaining life expectancy, which is why they do not contribute greatly to YLL.

When considering gender and years of life lost to Covid-19, men lost 44% more years, which research attributes to more men dying than women.

“Our results confirm that the mortality impact of Covid-19 is large, not only in terms of numbers of death, but also in terms of years of life lost,” the authors said.

“While the majority of deaths are occurring at ages above 75, justifying policy responses aimed at protecting these vulnerable ages, our results on the age pattern call for heightened awareness of devising policies protecting also the young.”

Image credit: Pixabay

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