Study shows pandemic led to biggest decrease in life expectancy since WWII

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An alarming new study reveals that average life expectancy declined significantly during the pandemic. 

The study, published Monday in the International Journal of Epidemiology and led by Oxford University researchers, found COVID-19 led to the biggest decrease in over half a century.

The scientists assembled an unprecedented, global data set assessing 29 nations spanning the world, including Spain, Poland and the United States.

The excessive deaths due to the coronavirus had an overwhelming impact on life expectancy in 27 of the 29 nations included in the study with American men showing the steepest decline. Projected mortality decreased by 2.2 years from 76.74 years in 2019 to 74.51 in 2020. American women dropped 1.7 years, shifting from 81.7 to 80 years old.

News 8 spoke with Dr. Christopher Doehring, vice president of medical affairs at Franciscan Health, who put these numbers into context. 

“When you’re talking about an 85-year-old, they aren’t really impacting life expectancy tables a lot,” he said. “But when you’re losing 40, 50 and 60 year olds and the average life expectancy is in the late 70s, or even 80-plus in some of these countries, that has a profound impact on life expectancy on your overall population.”

Doehring added that the U.S. has been seeing an improvement in life expectancy for decades, and for the country to see such a sharp decrease in both men and women is startling. He hopes that life expectancy will begin to climb again once the nation emerges from the pandemic.


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