With the improvement in living standards and medical breakthroughs as the modern world evolves, it is surprising that life expectancy has recently been reduced. fall in many advanced countries.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has tragically cut millions of lives short, which helps explain part of the trend, particularly in 2020. But it’s important to note that life expectancy was getting shorter before the pandemic in many developed countries.
Factors that have reduced lifespan in recent years include:
- Serious influenza and pneumonia epidemics
- The opioid epidemic in the United States
- An aging population in many countries, with deaths from respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease
Thanks to the pandemic, 2020 has been a particularly difficult year in many developed countries. Using statistics from Eurostat – the statistical office of the European Union – and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here is a sample of developed countries where life expectancy has fallen by at least a year in 2020.
Decreased life expectancy: 1 year
In the fall of 2020, Slovenia suddenly doubled the number of COVID-19 infections. The nation responded by declaring a 30-day state of emergency, including banning some travel, introducing a curfew, banning public and religious events and limiting the number of people allowed to assemble to just six.
At the start of 2021, citizens were increasingly restless. The government gave in, reopening ski resorts and some shops, and allowing more travel.
The Czech Republic also saw a one-year drop in life expectancy in 2020, according to Eurostat.
Decreased life expectancy: 1.2 years
By October 2020, COVID-19 had arrived in force in Belgium, which is home to the headquarters of the European Union and NATO. During this month, the country recorded the highest rate of coronavirus infections per 100,000 EU citizens.
Blockages followed. But at the start of this year, Belgium had the second highest death rate from COVID-19 in the world relative to its overall population, behind the tiny city-state of San Marino.
Italy also saw a drop in life expectancy of 1.2 years in 2020.
Decreased life expectancy: 1.4 years
As 2020 draws to a close, Poland has struggled hard to contain the spread of COVID-19. Cases peaked at 27,000 per day in November.
At the end of last year, the situation was serious enough that the country entered national quarantine from December 28 to January 17 of this year. Hotels, ski slopes and shopping centers all closed.
Lithuania and Romania also saw a decline in life expectancy of 1.4 years in 2020.
Decreased life expectancy: 1.5 years
The coronavirus has had a huge impact on life expectancy in the United States, dropping 1.5 years in 2020.
For the total population, life expectancy at birth fell from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.3 years in 2020. This brought US life expectancy to its lowest level since 2003, according to the CDC .
Bulgaria also saw a 1.5-year drop in life expectancy last year.
Decreased life expectancy: 1.6 years
COVID-19 hit Spain hard in 2020, resulting in a death rate that has reached its highest level since these statistics were first compiled in the 1970s.
The number of births has also fallen sharply to an all-time high, and marriages have fallen by almost half compared to 2019.
Decreased life expectancy: 2.4 years
During the pandemic, this small country – with a population of less than 40,000, located between Austria and Switzerland – had one of the highest confirmed per capita death rates in the world.
Echoing what was happening in the United States and many other countries at the time, late 2020 saw cases increase in Liechtenstein, with hospitals and healthcare workers under pressure.
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