Italy in the pandemic: life expectancy shortens by 14 months – Chronicle

Italy in the pandemic: life expectancy shortens by 14 months – Chronicle
Italy in the pandemic: life expectancy shortens by 14 months – Chronicle

Roma – The Italy of the pandemic it is a country where fewer and fewer children are being born, while life expectancy is lowered by one year and two months. It is a rather gloomy photograph that Istat takes in its report on demographic indicators to the country among the most affected by the coronavirus in the world. The consequences of Sars-CoV2 infections can be seen in the number of victims directly or indirectly linked to Covid, but also in the drastic decline, as if it were needed, of marriages and children.

Let’s start with the most evident data, that of deaths. In 2020, the total deaths in Italy were 746,000, 18% more than those recorded in 2019. Obviously, Covid also affected, which had effects on all components of the demographic change, recording a negative “natural dynamic (births-deaths)” in the amount of 342 thousand units . Not only. Istat assumes thatand mortality induced directly or indirectly by Covid caused 99 thousand deaths. According to the Integrated National Surveillance System of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, in the course of 2020 they were registered 75,891 deaths directly attributable to Covid-19. However, the absolute increase in deaths from all causes of death over the previous year was equal to + 112 thousand. Thus, if on the one hand it is possible to hypothesize that part of the mortality from Covid-19 may have escaped the surveys, on the other it is also concrete the hypothesis that a further part of deaths was caused by other lethal pathologies which, in the context of a national health system in full emergency, it was not possible to treat in the required time and manner.

While waiting for further information on the detailed data by cause of death, it is possible to carry out some general assessments. If, for example, in the course of 2020 the same risks of death observed in 2019 had been found, the deaths would have been 647 thousand, i.e. only 13 thousand more than the previous year, instead of the 112 thousand registered. It follows that the mortality induced directly / indirectly by Covid-19 amounts to 99 thousand deaths, a level that can be considered as a minimum limit. In fact, in the first two months of 2020, in a phase prior to the spread of the virus, deaths were 6,877 fewer than in the same months of 2019. It is therefore reasonable to assume that without the pandemic the risks of death would have been lower and not, as here it is assumed for the purposes of the calculation, precisely equal. Of the 99 thousand units estimated as excess mortality, 53 thousand are men and 46 thousand women, proving that the pandemic has mainly affected the male gender. On the basis of age, excess human losses are all concentrated after the age of 50 and are greater with advancing age.

Due to the sharp increase in the risk of mortality, especially in some areas and for some age groups, the average survival in 2020 appears to be in sharp decline, by 14 months on average. Life expectancy at birth, without distinction of gender, drops to 82 years, 1.2 years below the 2019 level. To observe a similar value, it is necessary to go back to 2012. Men are more penalized: their life expectancy at birth drops to 79.7 years, or 1.4 years less than the previous year, while for women it stands at 84 , 4 years, one year less survival.

All regions, none excluded, suffer a lowering of survival levels. Among men, the reduction in life expectancy at birth varies from a minimum of 0.5 years (i.e. six months of average life less) found in Calabria, to a maximum of well 2.6 years in Lombardy. The central-southern regions recorded lower losses, as they were less affected by the effects of the pandemic but still important. In Abruzzo, Puglia and Campania, the reduction in survival for men is over a year compared to 2019. But it is above all the North that pays the highest price: in addition to the aforementioned Lombardy, men also record significant reductions in Piedmont (-1.7 years), Valle d’Aosta (-1.7), Liguria (-1.6), Trentino-Alto Adige (-1.6) and Emilia-Romagna (-1.5).

The specificity of some areas of the country emerges, most affected by the pandemic in its initial phase of explosion. Among these, the province of Bergamo, where life expectancy at birth for men is 4.3 years lower than in 2019, and the provinces of Cremona and Lodi, both 4.5 years younger. In these three specific realities the variations found among women are also considerable: -3.2 years for Bergamo and -2.9 years for Cremona and Lodi. Data, the latter, which move back the hands of time to 2003. Another reality outside the Lombard borders, but strictly contiguous, is that of the province of Piacenza, where there are reductions in life expectancy at birth in the measure of 3.8 and 2.8 years, respectively for men and women.

Since 2008, Italy has seen a constant and seamless reduction in births. 2020 marks yet another reduction. In the space of 12 years we have gone from a relative peak of 577 thousand births to the current 404 thousand, a good 30% less. At the contraction of reproductive projects, with a Total fertility rate dropped last year to 1.24 children per woman from 1.27 in 2019 (it was 1.40 in 2008), there are also dimensional and structural deficits of the female population of childbearing age, which decreases over time and has an increasing average age. The effects of the pandemic could only manifest themselves, in the case, with reference to the month of December 2020. In fact, it must be considered that the psychological impact of Covid-19, as well as the restrictions adopted, they have had an impact on reproductive choices only starting from March. This is what also suggests the trend of births per single month in 2020, compared with 2019. In particular, with the exception of February, monthly births in 2020 are always below those of 2019, confirming the continuation of the trend reduction started in recent years. But it is significant to observe how the change on 2019 relating to the month of December above all, is the maximum (about 3,500 fewer births), supporting the hypothesis that, in addition to the trend data, the pandemic has also begun to have a reducing effect on the birth rate. A hypothesis that seems to be confirmed in the provisional data for January 2021, in which there is a drop in births of more than 5 thousand units compared to the same month of the previous year.

An indirect but immediate effect of the pandemic has already occurred with regard to couple formation processes. According to the first provisional data, in 2020, about 97 thousand weddings were celebrated, 48% fewer of the previous year, for a marriage rate that fell from 3.1 per thousand to 1.6 per thousand. Considering how much there still is today a close link between marriage and reproductive intentions in the short term, there is no doubt that this factor will also exert a negative push on births in 2021 and perhaps even later. The average age at childbirth reached 32.2 years (+0.1 over 2019), a parameter that has been regularly increasing for a long time (30.8 in 2003 and 31.1 in 2008). In this context, today it is quite usual that the fertility expressed by 35-39 year old women exceeds that of 25-29 year olds or that the over forty year olds are progressively approaching the levels of young under 25s.

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