Life Expectancy Plunges

Life expectancy suffers biggest postwar fall” — Covid prompts drop in 29 developed countries, with US men losing two years (September 27, 2021 Financial Times, page4)

If you catch yourself wondering why I get paid the really big bucks, it’s because I find little bits of actionable intel in hard-to-find places, like the International Journal of Epidemiology. The journal of what?

Epidemiology.

Per my friends at the CDC, “Epidemiology is the method used to find the causes of health outcomes and diseases in populations.” The COVID-19 outbreak has put Epidemiology on the tip of every tongue. Well, maybe not. In the midst of the pandemic, Epidemiologists are cranking out the news-worthy research.

The headlines for the youngest amongst us is not good. Not good at all.

According to a recent study, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered life expectancy losses not seen since World War II in Western Europe and the USA. The research published September 27, 2021, led by scientists at Oxford’s Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science concluded life that “the pandemic exacted a striking toll on population health in 2020 across most of Europe, the USA, and Chile. Only males and females in Denmark and Norway, and females in Finland were successful in avoiding drops in life expectancy in our cross-national comparison of 29 countries.” Figure 1 below details the researcher’s conclusion.

To be diligent, I read the study’s 12 pages. I was particularly gratified to see the disclaimer on page 2 of the publication. “The indicator (life expectancy) does not describe the actual life course of a cohort and should not be interpreted as a projection or forecast of any individual’s lifespan.”

What?

So life expectancy is an educated and computer-driven guess in very generalist of terms. Whew, I feel better already. Buried in the footnotes I found additional reason for calm. According to a noted 2019 research piece, the life expectancy measure (guess) can be skewed by other factors including a pandemic. Researchers at the Gerontology journal expressed reservations about the life expectancy metric, “we want to raise an awareness concerning the sensitivity of life expectancy to sudden changes and the menaces a misled interpretation of this indicator can cause.” Did the researchers use the phrase “the menaces a misled interpretation of this indicator can cause”? I believe they did. Menaces like in scary headlines?

My deep dive into the burgeoning “Life expectancy suffers biggest postwar fall” headlines comes up light on solid conclusions, heavy on speculation. Someone needs to break the news to the youngster in the picture above. Do you think he will understand? Tell him, I followed the science. 

Published by Robert Q Watson

During my first six decades on this earth, I lived life at great heights often on the razor’s edge. Consequently, I have enjoyed incredible successes and endured mind-numbing failures. Truthfully, I have had a hell of a view.

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