Coronavirus deaths ‘result in more than 10 years of life lost per person’

Deaths related to Covid-19 have resulted in more than 10 years of life being lost per person, according to a new study.

A research team from the University of Glasgow has started looking beyond the number of coronavirus-related deaths for a “more realistic measure” of its impact.

Information was obtained from Italy, one of the worst-affected countries in Europe, before and after adjustment for the number and type of chronic conditions.

This was then compared with World Health Organisation life tables, a large UK healthcare database and other data to estimate how long people with these characteristics might otherwise have been expected to live.

University of Glasgow
Dr David McAllister, of the University of Glasgow, led the study (Danny Lawson/PA)

Their report is published in Wellcome Open Research but has not yet been peer-reviewed.

It says: “Among patients dying of Covid-19, there appears to be a considerable burden in terms of years of life lost (YLL), commensurate with diseases such as coronary heart disease or pneumonia.

“While media coverage of the pandemic has focused heavily on Covid-19 affecting people with ‘underlying health conditions’, adjustment for number and type of long-term conditions only modestly reduces the estimated years of life lost due to Covid-19 compared to estimates based only on age and sex.

“Public health agencies and Governments should report on YLL, ideally adjusting for the presence of underlying long-term conditions, to allow the public and policymakers to better understand the burden of this disease.”

The team behind the new report is led by Dr David McAllister, Wellcome Trust Intermediate clinical fellow at the university’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing.

He said: “As most people dying with Covid-19 are older with underlying chronic conditions, some have speculated that the impact of the condition may have been overstated and that the actual number of years of life lost as a result of Covid-19 are relatively low.

“This new analysis found that death from Covid-19 results in over 10 years of life lost per person, even after taking account of the typical number and type of chronic conditions found in people dying of Covid-19.

“Among people dying of Covid-19, the number of years of life lost per person appear similar to diseases such as coronary heart disease.

“Information such as this is important to ensure governments and the public do not wrongly underestimate the effects of Covid-19 on individuals.”

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