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

See all articles by Paula Natalia Barreto Parra

Paula Natalia Barreto Parra

Northwestern University

Vladimir A. Atanasov

William and Mary - Raymond A. Mason School of Business

Jeff Whittle

Clement J. Zablocki Medical Center - Department of Medicine

John Meurer

Medical College of Wisconsin

Eric Luo

Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity, The George Washington University

Ruohao Zhang

Centre College

Bernard S. Black

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law

Date Written: May 10, 2022

Abstract

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.

Note:
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.

Suggested Citation

Barreto Parra, Paula Natalia and Atanasov, Vladimir A. and Whittle, Jeffrey and Meurer, John and Luo, Qian and Zhang, Ruohao and Black, Bernard S., The Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Elderly: Population Fatality Rates, COVID Mortality Percentage, and Life Expectancy Loss (May 10, 2022). Elder Law Journal, vol. 30, pp. 33-80, Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper 22-05, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4030029

Paula Natalia Barreto Parra

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Vladimir A. Atanasov

William and Mary - Raymond A. Mason School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

Jeffrey Whittle

Clement J. Zablocki Medical Center - Department of Medicine ( email )

5000 W. National Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53295
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.mcw.edu/display/router.asp?DocID=10377

John Meurer

Medical College of Wisconsin ( email )

United States
4145100375 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.mcw.edu/departments/institute-for-health-and-equity/people/john-meurer-md-mba

Qian Luo

Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity, The George Washington University ( email )

2175 K St NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States

Ruohao Zhang

Centre College ( email )

600 West Walnut Street
Danville, KY 40422
United States

Bernard S. Black (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-2784 (Phone)

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