COVID Has Slashed Life Expectancy in LombardyTWO BOCCONI SCHOLARS CONSIDER THE DECLINE IN LIFE EXPECTANCY AT LOCAL LEVEL TO BE THE MOST RELIABLE MEASURE OF THE HUMAN COST OF THE EPIDEMIC. THE PROVINCE OF BERGAMO LOST 8 YEARS FOR MEN AND 5.8 YEARS FOR WOMEN
In the first part of 2020 (until 15 April) COVID-19 reduced the life expectancy of males living in the most affected Italian provinces by 5.1-8 years and that of women by 3.2-5.8 years.
The decline in life expectancy at local level, according to Simone Ghislandi and Benedetta Scotti of Bocconi University and Raya Muttarak and Markus Sauerberg of the Wittgenstein Center in Vienna, is the most significant measure of the human cost of the epidemic. “The outbreaks of COVID, in fact, are localized, so the national scale underestimates their human cost”, explains Ghislandi, Associate Professor of Health Economics at Bocconi, “and the official death count can only be partial”.
Drawing on the praiseworthy work of ISTAT, which following the epidemic has collected real-time mortality data at the municipal level, scholars calculate the excess mortality in the first three and a half months of 2020 and compare it to the average in the same period of the last five years. In this way, the COVID Crisis Lab paper gives a measure of direct mortality (including deaths from COVID not officially recorded) and indirect mortality (including, for example, deaths from undertreatment of other diseases) in the provinces of Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona and Lodi and in the Lombardy region.
Even in the most affected areas, there is no excess mortality until 1 March, but in the hardest hit municipalities, when considering the entire period from 1 January to 15 April, the excess reaches 300%.
The main risk factor is age. The over-70s showed an excess mortality rate 66 times higher than that of those under 60.
Gender follows, with males much more exposed than females. Among the excess deaths, 56% are male and 44% female, but this measure underestimates the gender disparity because it does not take into account the fact that, in the most affected age groups, women are more numerous than men. After correction for this, the risk for men can reach 2.5 times that of women.
Bergamo is the province with the most significant drop in life expectancy for both males (8 years) and females (5.8 years), while the relatively smaller drop among males is recorded in Brescia (5.1 years) and among females in Piacenza (3.2 years).
The authors conclude by estimating the decrease in life expectancy on an annual basis, assuming that mortality, for the following months, returns to the average levels of the last five years. The result is an overall marked decrease, with Bergamo losing 3.5 years of life expectancy for males and 2.5 years for females.
Simone Ghislandi, Raya Muttarak, Markus Sauerberg, Benedetta Scotti, “News from the front: Estimation of excess mortality and life expectancy in the major epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy”, in medRxiv, DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.29.20084335.
by Fabio Todesco