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COVID causing biggest life expectancy drop since WWII in US and western Europe

US experiences worst decline, down by 2.2 years compared to 2019 among males, study finds; 27 of 29 countries researched see fall, in some cases wiping out years of progress

Illustrative: Medical personnel move a deceased patient to a refrigerated truck serving as a makeshift morgue at Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City, April 9, 2020. (Angela Weiss/AFP)
Illustrative: Medical personnel move a deceased patient to a refrigerated truck serving as a makeshift morgue at Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City, April 9, 2020. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the biggest drop in life expectancy in the US and western European countries since World War II, according to a new study published Monday.

The research, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, found that out of 29 countries — spanning most of Europe, the US, and Chile — 27 featured a drop in life expectancy.

In some cases, there was such a steep drop that it wiped out years of progress in raising life expectancy.

The biggest decline was among males in the US — 2.2 years compared to 2019, followed by males in Lithuania with 1.7 years, according to The Guardian.

Men, in general, experienced a bigger decline in life expectancy than women.

“Females in eight countries and males in 11 countries experienced losses larger than a year,” Dr. José Manuel Aburto, a co-lead author of the study said.

A COVID-19 patient lies in the ICU of the Posta Central Hospital in Santiago, Chile, June 4, 2021 (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

“To contextualize, it took on average 5.6 years for these countries to achieve a one-year increase in life expectancy recently, progress wiped out over the course of 2020 by COVID-19,” he said.

Nearly 5 million COVID-19 related deaths have been recorded globally since the onset of the pandemic.

“The fact that our results highlight such a large impact that is directly attributable to COVID-19 shows how devastating a shock it has been for many countries,” Dr. Ridhi Kashyap, another co-lead study author said.

She also called on more countries, especially those with lower income, to make their mortality data available, according to the Reuters news agency.

“We urgently call for the publication and availability of more disaggregated data to better understand the impacts of the pandemic globally,” Kashyap said.

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