Over 20.5 million years of life may have been lost due to COVID-19 globally, with an average of 16 years lost per death, according to a study published in Scientific Reports. Years of life lost (YLL) – the difference between an individual’s age at death and their life expectancy – due to COVID-19 in heavily affected countries may be two to nine times higher than YLL due to average seasonal influenza.
Héctor Pifarré i Arolas, Mikko Mÿrskyla and colleagues estimated YLL due to COVID-19 using data on over 1,279,866 deaths in 81 countries, as well as life expectancy data and projections for total deaths of COVID-19 by country.
The authors estimate that in total, 20,507,518 years of life may have been lost due to COVID-19 in the 81 countries included in this study – 16 years per individual death. Of the total YLL, 44.9% seems to have occurred in individuals between 55 and 75 years of age, 30.2% in individuals younger than 55, and 25% in those older than 75. In countries for which death counts by gender were available, YLL was 44% higher in men than in women. Compared with other global common causes of death, YLL associated with COVID-19 is two to nine times greater than YLL associated with seasonal flu, and between a quarter and a half as much as the YLL attributable to heart conditions.
The authors caution that the results need to be understood in the context of an ongoing pandemic: they provide a snapshot of the possible impacts of COVID-19 on YLL as of 6 January, 2021. Estimates of YLL may be over- or under-estimates due to the difficulty of accurately recording COVID-19-related deaths.
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