Life expectancy falls as a result of COVID-19

Report co-authored by Bayes Business School expert reveals early shift in life expectancy in the aftermath of the pandemic.

* Life expectancy falls by 1.3 years for men and 0.9 years for women in 2020, as mortality rates reflect impact of pandemic.

* 76 per cent of all Covid deaths in ‘high-risk’ category impacted by factors such as existing health conditions, obesity and age

* However, impact of COVID on ethnic minorities and people in areas of deprivation is disproportionately high

A new report, ‘The Covid-19 Pandemic’, published by the Longevity Science Panel (LSP) including Professor Steve Haberman, Professor of Actuarial Science at Bayes Business School (formerly Cass), highlights that life expectancy at birth fell by 1.3 years for men and 0.9 years for women in 2020, linked to the excess mortality caused by the pandemic. The report is a comprehensive review of Covid-19 effects and responses, intended as a resource for professional users of longevity data including actuaries, risk managers, public health professionals, epidemiologists and researchers.

While Covid as an event has driven headline reductions in longevity, this over-simplifies. The most pronounced effects are in vulnerable groups where inequality has widened, while broader trend changes will depend far more on little-understood factors like variants, long-Covid and socio-economic impacts on longevity.

The pandemic has cost an estimated 155,000 lives in the UK and more than 4.5 million lives globally, and while its impact has been profound, the data suggests that approximately 76 per cent of total Covid deaths were in patients in the top 5 per cent for highest predicted risk. These risk factors are varied, including everything from heart disease to obesity. By far the most substantial of these is age, with the risk of death increasing about 10 per cent for each year of age.

Despite these health-based factors being significant, mortality rates from Covid-19 within the United Kingdom tend to be higher in deprived areas and vary by region, with the highest rates observed in the North.

Areas with higher rates of deprivation have generally experienced higher rates of mortality, partly because of overcrowded living conditions and poor quality housing. This is also due to the fact that workers in lower socioeconomic groups on lower pay and in more deprived areas tend to have less control over their working conditions, such as being unable to work remotely. According to the data, the mortality rate for men in professional occupations, for instance, was 12 in every 100,000, whereas those in ‘elementary occupations’ saw a rate of 40 in every 100,000.

Black and Asian minority groups have had significantly higher likelihood of death from Covid, even taking into account deprivation, health and geography. For example, Covid mortality for people of Black African or Black Caribbean ethnicity in the first half of 2020 was 2 to 2.5 times higher than for people of white ethnicity according to the Office for National Statistics.

The pandemic is far from over with uncertainty going forward, such as potential emergence of new variants, long-Covid and how backlog in the NHS might affect population longevity.

Read the full report ‘The Covid-19 Pandemic’.

On Monday 6th September, the Business School (formerly Cass) became Bayes Business School. Read the University’s statement about the new name.

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