Journal Article

Years of life lost during the Covid-19 pandemic in Sweden considering variation in life expectancy by level of geriatric care


The Covid-19 pandemic has not affected the population evenly. This must be acknowledged when it comes to understanding the Covid-19 death toll and answering the question of how many life years have been lost. We use level of geriatric care to account for variation in remaining life expectancy among individuals that died during 2020. Based on a linkage of administrative registers, we estimate remaining life expectancy stratified by age, sex, and care status using an incidence-based multistate model and analyze the number of years of life lost (YLL) during 2020 in Sweden. Our results show that remaining life expectancy between individuals with and without care differs substantially. More than half of all Covid-19 deaths had a remaining life expectancy lower than 4 years. Yet, in a 1-year perspective, Covid-19 did not seem to replace other causes of death. Not considering the differences in remaining life expectancy in the affected populations overestimated YLL by 40% for women and 30% for men, or around 2 years per death. While the unadjusted YLL from Covid-19 amounted to an average of 7.5 years for women and 8.6 years for men, the corresponding YLL adjusted for care status were 5.4 and 6.6, respectively. The total number of YLL to Covid-19 in 2020 is comparable to YLL from ischemic heart disease in 2019 and 2020. Our results urge the use of subgroup specific mortality when counting the burden of Covid-19. YLL are considerably reduced when the varying susceptibility for death is considered, but even if most lifespans were cut in the last years of life, the YLL are still substantial.

Keywords: Sweden, epidemics, life expectancy, mortality
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.