The Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Elderly: Population Fatality Rates, COVID Mortality Percentage, and Life Expectancy Loss
42 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2022 Last revised: 3 Jun 2022
Date Written: May 10, 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the elderly. This article provides a detailed analysis of those effects, drawing primarily on individual-level mortality data covering almost three million persons aged 65+ in three Midwest states (Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin). We report sometimes surprising findings on population fatality rates (PFR), the ratio of COVID to non-COVID deaths, reported as a percentage, which we call the “Covid Mortality Percentage,” and mean life expectancy loss (LEL). We examine how these COVID outcomes vary with age, gender, race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, and time period during the pandemic.
For all persons in the three Midwest areas, COVID PFR through year-end 2021 was 0.22%, mean years of life lost (YLL) was 13.0 years, the COVID Mortality Percentage was 12.4%, and LEL was 0.028 years (11 days). In contrast, for the elderly, PFR was 1.03%; YLL was 8.8 years, the COVID Mortality Percentage was 13.2%, and LEL was 0.091 years (34 days). Controlling for gender, PFR and LEL were substantially higher for Blacks and Hispanics than for Whites at all ages. Racial/ethnic disparities for the elderly were large early in the pandemic but diminished later. Although COVID-19 mortality was much higher for the elderly, the COVID Mortality Percentage over the full pandemic period was only modestly higher for the elderly, at 13.2%, than for non-elderly adults aged 25-64, at 11.1%. Indeed, in 2021, this ratio was lower for the elderly than for the middle-aged, reflecting higher elderly vaccination rates.
The Online Appendix for this paper is available at https://ssrn.com/abstract=4030030.
Funding: This project was funded by the National Institutes of Health, award 3 UL1 TR001436-06S1.
Declaration of Interests: The authors have no competing interests.
Ethics Approval Statement: Approved by the Medical College of Wisconsin Human Research Review Board.
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