Image source: Luyin Zhang, Leverhulme Centre
The researchers found most countries in Western Europe experienced life expectancy bounce-backs from the sharp losses in 2020. Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and France saw complete bounce-backs, returning to pre-pandemic 2019 life expectancy levels. England and Wales saw partial bounce-backs, recovering some of the losses from 2020 but not back to 2019 levels. Life expectancy in Scotland and Northern Ireland, however, remained at the same depressed level as 2020.
In contrast, Eastern Europe and the US witnessed worsening losses in life expectancy over the same period. The scale of life expectancy losses during the Covid-19 pandemic in Eastern Europe were akin to those last seen at the break-up of the Soviet Union, according to the research.
Countries with higher proportions of fully vaccinated people experienced smaller life expectancy deficits. Older ages, especially those over 80 who had seen the bulk of deaths in 2020, benefitted from vaccine protection and a decline in excess mortality in 2021.