US Ranks 36th Out of 37 Nations on COVID-19 Mortality

Summary: A new study quantifies the loss in life expectancy due to COVID-19 in nations around the world. The US is in the worst tier, with a drop of nearly two years. Blame lays at the feet of mishandling by Trump, but also long-term degradation of public health and primary care access. Both must be rebuilt.

Effects of covid-19 pandemic on life expectancy and premature mortality in 2020: time series analysis in 37 countries.
November 3, 2021
By Nazrul Islam et al.

From abstract:

“Reduction in life expectancy was estimated as the difference between observed and expected life expectancy in 2020 using the Lee-Carter model. . . .

Results: Reduction in life expectancy in men and women was observed in all the countries studied except New Zealand, Taiwan, and Norway, where there was a gain in life expectancy in 2020. No evidence was found of a change in life expectancy in Denmark, Iceland, and South Korea. The highest reduction in life expectancy was observed in Russia (men: −2.33; women: −2.14), the United States (men: −2.27; women: −1.61), Bulgaria (men: −1.96; women: −1.37), Lithuania (men: −1.83; women: −1.25), Chile (men: −1.64; women: −0.88), and Spain (men: −1.35; women: −1.13)”

[Note: All figures are in years; confidence intervals deleted to enhance readability]

Comment and Graph by David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler

These data provide further evidence of the criminal mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US.  By another measure – years of life lost per 100,000 population – the US was better only than Bulgaria, Russia and Lithuania. Donald Trump’s denialism and malfeasance bear much of the blame for the US’ sorry record on COVID-19. But the gutting of public health capacity, which occurred under both Democrats and Republicans, and our defective health care system, which obstructs access to care and discourages trusting relationships, were and remain major contributors.

6% of health spending should go for public health, double the current proportion. Further, we need to erase access barriers, and build a real and universal primary care infrastructure. 

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