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Covid-19 has cut life expectancy by two years in India: IIPS study

The Times of India logo The Times of India 23-10-2021 Malathy Iyer
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MUMBAI: Life expectancy in India has dropped by roughly two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a statistical analysis by scientists from the International Institute for Population Studies in the city. “Life expectancy at birth for men and women has declined from 69.5 years and 72 years in 2019 to 67.5 years and 69.8 years respectively in 2020,” said IIPS assistant professor Surayakant Yadav, whose work was published in the prestigious journal ‘BMC Public Health’ on Thursday.

‘Life expectancy at birth’ refers to the average number of years a newborn is expected to live if mortality patterns at the time of his/her birth remain constant in the future. The new study also looked at ‘length of life inequality’ (the variation in length of life within populations), and found the Covid toll on men in the 35-69 age group was the highest. “The 35–79 age group had excess deaths caused by Covid in 2020 compared to normal years and it is this group that has contributed immensely to the drop,” said the author.

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The IIPS study was conducted to look at the burden repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic on mortality patterns in the country. Across the world, Covid-19 has resulted in excess deaths in comparison to the previous years.

According to the union health ministry, 4.5 lakh people died due to Covid-19 since March 2020, but data specialists have worked out that millions have died due to the pandemic in India.

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The IIPS study used data collated by the 145-nation Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study as well as CovidIndia Application Programming Interface (API) portal for the analysis. The study found that India was right in the middle as far as the impact on mortality is concerned – as compared to India’s 2-year drop, life expectancy at birth dropped more than one year in the US, England and Wales and 2.28 years in Spain.

“The Covid impact has wiped out the progress we made in the last decade to increase the life expectancy figure,” said Yadav. India’s life expectancy at birth now is the same as it was in 2010. “It will take us years to catch up,” he added. However, IIPS director Dr K S James said many epidemics have in the past had an impact on life expectancy at birth figures. “It is a dynamic figure that keeps changing every year. In Africa, life expectancy dropped drastically due to the HIVAIDS epidemic, but recouped in a few years,” said James.

An expert, who didn’t want to be named, said a drop of two years is high if one considers the central health ministry’s Covid toll figures. “If the case fatality rate was higher at 3 or more as suggested by individual statisticians, only then does the drop seem fine,” he added.

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