The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed progress in raising global life expectancy

Пандемия COVID-19 свела на нет прогресс в повышении глобального уровня ожидаемой продолжительности жизни

Coronavirus infection COVID-19 has quickly become one of the leading causes of death and was the third leading cause of death in the world in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed progress in raising global life expectancy Healthcare

The latest edition of the World Health Statistics report, released today by the World Health Organization (WHO), notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed the steady increase in life expectancy at birth and healthy life expectancy at birth.

Consequences of the pandemic

In just two years, the pandemic has erased nearly a decade of progress in increasing life expectancy. During the period 2019–2021 worldwide, life expectancy decreased by 1.8 years and amounted to 71.4 years (that is, returned to the level of 2012). Similarly, in 2021, global healthy life expectancy fell by 1.5 years to 61.9 years (back to 2012 levels).

In the 2024 report It also emphasizes that the effects of the pandemic are being felt unevenly around the world. The WHO regions of the Americas and South-East Asia were the hardest hit, with life expectancy falling by about three years and healthy life expectancy falling by 2.5 years between 2019 and 2021. In contrast, the Western Pacific Region was the least affected in the first two years of the pandemic, with life expectancy falling by less than 0.1 years and healthy life expectancy falling by less than 0.2 years.

“Fragile progress”

“Global health continues to make significant progress, with billions of people enjoying better health, greater access to services and greater protection from health emergencies,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “But we must recognize how fragile progress can be. In just two years, the coronavirus>COVID-19 pandemic has erased a decade of growth in life expectancy. That is why the new Pandemic Agreement is so important not only for strengthening sanitary and epidemiological security around the world, but also for protecting long-term investments in health and promoting equity within and among countries.”

Leading causes of death

Coronavirus infection COVID-19 has quickly become a leading cause of death and was the third leading cause of death in the world in 2020 and second in 2021. During this period, it claimed the lives of almost 13 million people. According to the latest estimates, excluding the African and Western Pacific Regions, COVID-19 was among the top five leading causes of death in the world in these two years and became the leading cause of death in the Region of the Americas.

Non-communicable diseases

The WHO report also highlights that the leading causes of death before the pandemic were non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as coronary heart disease and stroke, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, and diabetes. They accounted for 74 percent of all deaths in 2019. Even during the pandemic, NCDs still accounted for 78 percent of non-COVID-19 deaths.

Rising rates of obesity and malnutrition

The world faces a large and complex double burden of malnutrition, which includes undernutrition as well as overweight and obesity. In 2022, more than one billion people over the age of five were obese, while more than half a billion people were underweight. Rates of malnutrition among children are also striking: stunting (low height for age) affects 148 million children under five, wasting (low weight for height) affects 45 million, and overweight affects 37 million.

Vulnerable population groups

The report also highlights the serious health challenges faced by people with disabilities, refugees and migrants. In 2021, approximately 1.3 billion people, or 16 percent of the global population, had a disability. This population is disproportionately affected by health inequalities resulting from avoidable inequities and discrimination.

Constraints continue to exist in access to health care for refugees and migrants, with only half of the 84 countries surveyed between 2018 and 2021 providing publicly funded health services to these populations at levels comparable to service provision citizens of these countries. This underscores the urgent need to adapt health systems so that they can address persistent inequalities and meet the needs of the world’s population in the face of changing demographics.

Can the goals be achieved?

Despite the negative impacts of the pandemic, the world has made some progress towards achieving the triple billion and health-related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

An additional 1.5 billion people have improved their health and well-being since 2018. Despite progress, progress is hampered by rising obesity rates, high rates of tobacco use and continued air pollution.

Universal health coverage increased by 585 million people, below target ” one billion”. Moreover, only 777 million additional people are likely to be better protected during health emergencies by 2025, falling short of the one billion target set in WHO’s Thirteenth General Program of Work. The need to provide such protection increases as the effects of climate change and other global crises become a greater threat to sanitary and epidemiological security.


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