Estimating the burden of COVID-19 on mortality, life expectancy and lifespan inequality in England and Wales: A population-level analysis
Aburto JM., Kashyap R., Schöley J., Angus C., Ermisch J., Mills M., Dowd JB.
Objective To determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mortality, life expectancy and lifespan inequality in the first half of 2020 (from week 1 to week 26 starting June 22) in England and Wales. Design Demographic analysis of all-cause mortality from week 1 through week 26 of 2020 using publicly available death registration data from the Office for National Statistics. Setting and population England and Wales population by age and sex in 2020. Main outcome measure Age and sex-specific excess mortality risk and deaths above a baseline adjusted for seasonality in the first half of 2020. We additionally provide estimates of life expectancy at birth and lifespan inequality defined as the standard deviation in age at death. Results We estimate that there have been 53,937 (95% Prediction Interval: 53,092, 54,746) excess deaths in the first half of 2020, 54% of which occurred in men. Excess deaths increased sharply with age and men experienced elevated risks of death in all age groups. Life expectancy at birth dropped 1.7 and 1.9 years for females and males relative to the 2019 levels, respectively. Lifespan inequality also fell over the same period. Conclusions Quantifying excess deaths and their impact on life expectancy at birth provides a more comprehensive picture of the full COVID-19 burden on mortality. Whether mortality will return to - or even fall below - the baseline level remains to be seen as the pandemic continues to unfold and diverse interventions are put in place. Summary boxes What is already known on this topic COVID-19 related deaths may be misclassified as other causes of death thereby underestimating the full impact of the pandemic on mortality. Excess mortality, the difference between observed deaths and what would have been expected in the absence of the pandemic, is a useful metric to quantify the overall impact of the pandemic on mortality and population health. Life expectancy at birth and lifespan inequality assess the cumulative impact of the pandemic on population health. What this study adds We examine death registration data from the Office for National Statistics from 2015 to week 26 (mid-year) in 2020 to quantify the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mortality in England and Wales thus far. We estimate excess mortality risk by age and sex, and quantify the impact of excess mortality risk on excess deaths, life expectancy and lifespan inequality. During weeks 10 through 26 of 2020, elevated mortality rates resulted in 53,937 additional deaths compared with baseline mortality. Life expectancy at birth for males and females in the first half of 2020 was 78 and 81.8 years, which represent a decline of 1.9 and 1.7 years of life lost relative to the year 2019. Lifespan inequality, a measure of the spread or variation in ages at death, declined due to the increase of mortality at older ages.