How the COVID-19 pandemic last year reduced Canada’s life expectancy

Last year, COVID-19 deaths reduced life expectancy at birth by five months. Recent data Statistics released by Statistics Canada show that this may put the country at a level not seen in seven years.

The survey results vary widely across the country. Quebec’s life expectancy has fallen by nearly a year, while the Atlantic provinces and regions have hardly changed. This confirms that there are major differences in the number of deaths caused by the pandemic in each region. Some experts also stated that life expectancy does not reflect the long-term death toll from COVID-19.

Marissa Crayley, deputy scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and assistant professor of public health at the University of Toronto, said the figures released by Statistics Canada are not a reason to press the panic button.

“We are in the midst of a pandemic, so we expect the mortality rate to be a little higher now,” she said, adding that it is unlikely that these mortality rates will continue throughout the life of a baby born today.

The death toll from the pandemic is already clear-since the pandemic began, more than 25,700 people in Canada have died of the virus. Public Health Agency of Canada -But experts say that the blow to life expectancy helps put these losses in context.

Happened before

This is not the first time a health crisis has affected Canada’s life expectancy at birth.

In 2017, the The opioid crisis According to Statistics Canada, life expectancy at birth has been reduced by 0.07 years. From January 2016 to September 2020, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported more than 19,300 opioid-related deaths.

The HIV epidemic in the country caused approximately 18,300 deaths between 1987 and 2011, and it also resulted in a slight decline.

The main difference this time is that COVID-19 has claimed more lives in a shorter period of time. However, compared with the other two health crises, the average age of the dead is much older.

To understand the impact of these deaths, Statistics Canada estimated life expectancy if there were no pandemics, and calculated how much would change when they took into account the 2020 COVID-19 mortality rate.

The agency uses the life expectancy of 82.1 years in 2019 as the basis for calculation, because the actual life expectancy in 2020 cannot be known until the number of non-COVID deaths in that year is obtained.

Life expectancy is used to measure the overall health of the population and can help determine how a country or region compares to other places.

Quebec saw the biggest drop

On Tuesday, December 29, 2020, medical staff transferred an ambulance to the Verdun Hospital in Montreal. Quebec is one of Canada’s worst-hit provinces. (Graham Hughes/Canada Press)

Quebec accounted for more than half of Canada’s COVID-19 deaths last year, and its life expectancy has been reduced by about 10 months, twice that of the rest of the country.

“This corresponds to The crisis we see In long-term care facilities,” said Tim Evans, Dean of McGill University’s School of Population and Global Health and Executive Director of the COVID-19 Immunization Working Group.

“They are understaffed and they don’t have enough capacity to deal with this,” he said, adding that the death toll in these houses is “very, very, very high.”

Manitoba ranks second in life expectancy, with a decrease of 0.6 years, followed by Ontario and Alberta.

In contrast, due to the relatively low number of COVID-19 deaths, life expectancy estimates in Atlantic provinces and territories have changed little. These areas have implemented stricter blockades at the beginning of the pandemic and imposed stricter travel restrictions on their borders. Compared with other parts of the country, these areas have fewer cases of the virus.

Canada is better than other countries

Statistics Canada found that Canada outperforms the United States and many other European countries, including France, Italy, and Spain, on this indicator. But its performance is not as good as Germany, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Australia and New Zealand.

Patrice Dion, the author of the study and a statistician at Statistics Canada, said that although the agency did not compile estimates for other countries, they used data released by these countries for comparison.

Dion cited similar research conducted in the United States and said that the impact of COVID-19 deaths in the country on life expectancy is three times that of Canada. “Their estimate is 1.26 years [reduction],” He says.

That’s because Canada’s southern neighbors COVID death rate is much higher He explained that due to this virus, people there died of it at a young age.

Capture the whole picture

Dion said that although Statistics Canada’s survey results are a good indicator of the burden the virus has placed on the population, it is important to remember that they do not reflect the entire situation.

He said: “If medical care is delayed, it may have a negative impact on life expectancy, but for example, traffic accidents may be reduced, which may have a positive impact.”

Creatore says that just looking at life expectancy cannot show the damage done to our healthcare system. “Will people be affected by delayed cancer screening and insufficient control of chronic diseases in the next few years?”

It didn’t capture the pandemic in a way The affected communities are different, She added. “Overall life expectancy may continue to be low for a few years, because this is driven by the growing inequality between different groups.”

Compared with more affluent residential areas, low-income and ethnically diverse communities have higher infection and mortality rates.

Dion said: “There is no single number that allows you to understand the full impact of the pandemic, let alone human losses.”

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