The average American who has succumbed to COVID-19 could have kept on living for another 13 years, according to a new Harvard University study.
The assumption that COVID-19 is only killing elderly people near a natural death is not supported by research, said study author Stephen J. Elledge, a genetics professor at Harvard Medical School.
The study looks at the 194,000 COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic to October. By looking at actuarial data on life expectancy and demographics, researchers said that more than 2.5 million person-years of life have been lost so far in the U.S.
The U.S. has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 - the country has 20 percent of the world’s infections, but only 4 percent of the world’s population, the study noted.
“As COVID-19 disproportionately impacts elderly populations, the false impression that the impact on society of these deaths is minimal may be conveyed by some because elderly individuals are closer to a natural death,” Elledge said. “Nearly half of the potential years of life lost occur in non-elderly populations.”
So far, there have been 20.5 million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and 350,664 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has data for deaths by age group for all COVID-19-related deaths for which the age of the deceased was reported - a total of more than 250,000 deaths (about 100,000 less than the overall COVID-19 death toll). Of those deaths in the CDC study, 33 percent of the people who died were elderly (ages 85 or older) - a figure that translates to about 82,200 people who have died.
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