A new study, “Global and National Declines in Life Expectancy: An End-of-2021 Assessment,” reports on changes in life expectancies around the world. It is authored by Patrick Heuveline, professor of sociology and associate director of the California Center for Population Research at UCLA, and published in Population and Development Review, a journal of the Population Council.
From 1950 to 2019, mortality decreases were rare and localized; they were more than compensated by mortality increases elsewhere. The decline from 2019 to 2020, estimated in this study at .92 year, was the first decline since 1950–the first year the United Nations estimated the world’s life expectancy.
While some research has analyzed the impact of Covid-19 on national life expectancy, mostly in Western Europe and the United States, this is the first published study estimating the global impact of Covid-19 on life expectancy.
The 2019–2020 decline was followed by another decline of .72 year between 2020 and 2021. However, the world’s life expectancy appeared to stabilize by the end of 2021.
“Still, the world’s life expectancy was two years lower in 2021 than it should have been in the absence of Covid-19,” says Heuveline.
Heuveline’s research also sheds light on the effect of Covid-19 on life expectancy in countries where the topic has received relatively little attention. Data still do not allow reliable estimation in nearly half of the world’s nations, but estimates indicate that the impact of Covid-19 has been larger in several Asian and African countries (Egypt, India, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, the Philippines, South Africa, Tunisia) than in extensively studied countries of Western Europe (e.g., Italy, Spain, or the United Kingdom).
Heuveline writes: “These results highlight a geographical imbalance between the availability and quality of data on excess mortality and impact of the pandemic.”
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