The Impact of Covid-19 on Future Higher-Age Mortality
Andrew J.G. Cairns, David Blake, Amy R. Kessler & Marsha Kessler
Covid-19 has predominantly affected mortality at high ages. It kills by inflaming and clogging the air sacs in the lungs, depriving the body of oxygen ‒ inducing hypoxia ‒ which closes down essential organs, in particular the heart, kidneys and liver, and causes blood clots (which can lead to stroke or pulmonary embolism) and neurological malfunction.
Evidence from different countries points to the fact that people who die from Covid-19 are often, but not always, much less healthy than the average for their age group. This is true for England & Wales – the two countries we focus on in this study. The implication is that the years of life lost through early death are less than the average for each age group, with how much less being a source of considerable debate. We argue that many of those who die from coronavirus would have died anyway in the relatively near future due to their existing frailties or co-morbidities. We demonstrate how to capture this link to poorer-than-average health using a model in which individual deaths are ‘accelerated’ ahead of schedule due to Covid-19. The model structure and its parameterization build on the observation that Covid-19 mortality by age is approximately proportional to all-cause mortality. This, in combination with current predictions of total deaths, results in the important conclusion that, everything else being equal, the impact of Covid-19 on the mortality rates of the surviving population will be very modest. Specifically, the degree of anti-selection is likely to be very small, since the life expectancy of survivors does not increase by a significant amount over pre-pandemic levels.
Covid-19, all-cause mortality, frailty, co-morbidities, mortality deprivation, accelerated deaths model
JEL code: J11