WIESBADEN Life expectancy in Germany has fallen significantly since the start of the crown pandemic. Life expectancy in 2021 was only 83.2 years for newborn girls and 78.2 years for newborn boys. Infant life expectancy has therefore dropped sharply compared to 2019 – the last year before the pandemic – by 0.6 years for boys and 0.4 years for girls, the Federal Statistical Office in Wiesbaden reported on Tuesday.
Statisticians are sure: “The main reason for this development is the exceptionally high number of deaths during the corona waves.” The development of life expectancy indicates changes in mortality independent of the age structure. Therefore, they are particularly suitable for comparisons.
“We can trace developments directly from Covid-19,” agrees Jonas Schöley, who studies population health at the St. Max Planck in Rostock. The numbers from Wiesbaden match one-to-one with the results of his research group. “It is quite unusual and an absolute exception to synchronize such a sharp decline across the planet for two consecutive years.”
The analysis shows that the decline in life expectancy at birth between 2019 and 2021 was particularly significant in eastern Germany. This value decreased by 1.3 years for boys and by 0.9 years for girls. In western Germany, the decline was 0.4 years for boys and 0.3 years for girls. The East German Länder have been hit particularly hard since the Second Wave pandemic.
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This issue is related to two factors: As the proportion of older people in the population increases, the number of deaths is expected to increase annually in the last 20 years. At the same time – at least before the crown pandemic broke out – old people grew old. “The effect of increasing life expectancy thus weakened the aging effect,” explains the Federal Office.
With both effects acting simultaneously, the number of deaths before the outbreak of the pandemic increased on average by one to two percent per year. Already in 2020, the increase was more pronounced compared to the previous year before the pandemic, 2019, with statistics showing five percent more deaths. In 2021, the number of deaths increased by another four percent.
“Based on 2019, expected mortality rates ranging from 960,000 to 980,000 in 2021, an increase of 2 to 4 percent. In fact, the number of deaths increased by 9 percent from 2019 to 2021. ” “For the two years 2020 and 2021, there were approximately 70,000 to 100,000 additional deaths.” Nearly 115,000 deaths from Covid 19 have been reported to the Robert Koch Institute during these two years.
The Federal Statistical Office explains that the impact in 2021 was lower than in 2020 for measures and changes in behavior during a pandemic. They could also reduce deaths from other infectious diseases like the flu in 2020 and 2021.
The question is whether these two special years have ended or have they just stopped the aging trend of people. Life expectancy in Europe has been increasing for over 100 years, says Schöley, but during that time there have always been declines like the two world wars or the Spanish flu. After that, you always returned to positive development.
Sometimes crises have even accelerated this trend. “You had antibiotics after WWII – maybe the mRNA technology on which most corona vaccines are based will help us fight cancer.” However, new risk factors are also emerging, such as a possible economic crisis or political instability. “Then we can wait a lot longer for our increasing life expectancy to return.”