Coronavirus will mark a dark chapter in this nation’s history. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s grim forecast back in March sums up the tragedy that has befallen the UK. In the daily press briefing at the time, he said: “Many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.” Indeed, many lives have been lost since then.
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The same story has played out in countries across the world.
Research conducted by Public Health Scotland and experts at the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, has now dived into the mortality data and revealed the extent to which people have died before they would due to natural circumstances.
The research was based on a study of COVID-19 patients in Italy and a sliding scale devised by the World Health Organization that is used to calculate how many years of life people lose to illness.
The vast majority of people – except those who live beyond 100 – lose life-years to some sort of condition or theoretically avoidable factor.
Studying the ages of people dying of the coronavirus, the Scottish researchers found that men lost, on average, 13 years and women 11 years, even when their other health problems are taken into account.
In England and Wales the most common age at which people died of COVID-19, up to April 17, was between 80 and 84, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The WHO’s years-lost scale explains a death at 81 is equal to 14 years of life lost.
The years of life lost for people in their fifties with no underlying conditions was around 35.81.
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In comparison, the number of years lost barely changed for one underlying condition (35.03).
The figure was 29.67 for people in their fifties with two conditions – and 19.39 for those with five.
Dr McAllister and his colleagues explained that differences in the types of illnesses led to a “wide variability” in the impact the virus had on their lives.
The study they used in their research focused on people with heart disease, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, dementia, COPD, cancer, liver failure and kidney disease.
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But their findings showed that even the most seriously ill patients who then died of COVID-19 lost “substantial” amounts of time they would otherwise have lived.
They said: “Across most age and multimorbidity count [categories] the estimated years of life lost per person remained substantial and generally above five years.
“This means that even after accounting for the multimorbidity count, most individuals lost considerably more than the ‘one to two years’ suggested by some commentators.”
Other causes of death
In addition to killing people with underlying health conditions, COVID-19 has killed younger patients who do not fall into any of the typical at-risk categories.
“Recently, there have been reports of a greater-than-expected number of younger patients being hospitalised for, and sometimes dying from, serious strokes,” reports Harvard Health.
Early evidence suggests coronavirus is causing blood clot formations in the body.
As Harvard Health explains, strokes occur when the brain’s blood supply is interrupted, usually due to a blood clot.
“COVID-related strokes occur because of a body-wide increase in blood clot formation, which can damage any organ, not just the brain,” it explains.
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