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ARC East Midlands Director part of major COVID-19 study

A team of researchers including Professor Kamlesh Khunti has revealed the number of years lost due to COVID-19.

According to the largest-ever survey to assess the scale of the impact of the pandemic, coronavirus has caused the loss of 28 million years of life in 31 countries. 

The study, which was published in the BMJ and led by the University of Oxford, calculated the number of deaths and the age at which they occurred.

The researchers concluded: “More than 28 million excess years of life were lost in 2020 in 31 countries, with a higher rate in men than women. Excess years of life lost associated with the covid-19 pandemic in 2020 were more than five times higher than those associated with the seasonal influenza epidemic in 2015.”

Professor Khunti said: “This is an important study because we were able to calculate the true cost of the pandemic on human life. Unfortunately, the pandemic has touched all of our lives and as this study reveals, the total lost number of human lives lost to coronavirus has been phenomenal.”

The research team compared life expectancy and years of life lost in 2020 with those that would be expected based on historical trends between 2005 and 2019.

Life expectancy increased in men and women in all the countries surveyed between 2005 and 2019. However, the results revealed that in 2020, there was a decline in life expectancy in men and women in every country except New Zealand, Taiwan, and Norway, where there was a gain in life expectancy, and Denmark, Iceland and South Korea, where no evidence of a change in life expectancy was found.

Russia (-2.33 years in men and -2.14 in women) saw the highest decline in life expectancy in years along with the US (-2.27 in men and -1.61 in women) and Bulgaria (-1.96 in men and -1.37 in women).

The decline in life expectancy in years in England and Wales was -1.2 in men and -0.8 in women, while inn Scotland, it was -1.24 in men and -0.54 in women.

Years of life lost were higher than expected in all countries in 2020 apart from Taiwan and New Zealand, which saw a reduction in years of life lost. In Iceland, South Korea, Denmark, and Norway there was no evidence of a change in years of life lost.

More than 222m years of life were lost in 2020 in the remaining 31 countries, which is 28.1m more than expected (17.3m in men and 10.8m in women).

The highest excess years of life lost per 100,000 people were in Russia (7,020 in men and 4,760 in women), Bulgaria (7,260 in men and 3,730 in women) and Lithuania (5,430 in men and 2,640 in women). It was 2,140 in men and 1,210 in women, while in Scotland it was 2,540 in men and 925 in women in England and Wales.

Dr. Nazrul Islam, the lead author of the study, said: “The extent of premature deaths that we have observed in our study was indeed shocking and sobering, something beyond what we could imagine. I am not sure if we can actually visualise a number as high as 28 million life years that we have lost within just one calendar year, that too in only 31 countries. We also need to remember that the impact is far beyond these numbers; every person we lost had left their bereaved families and friends and relatives. This pandemic has far reaching impact beyond what we could report in these numbers.”

Published on: 5 Nov 2021