Coronavirus has cost the US more than 138,000 years in potential human life, according to a Harvard University study.
Although coronavirus is particularly dangerous to older people, the infection has by no means spared young people.
Harvard researchers calculated years of life lost based on how many people under the age of 65 have died of COVID-19, because these young people would under normal circumstances be unlikely to die this year.
And to their horror, the study authors found that black Americans collectively lost 45,777 years of life – 37 percent more than the loss suffered by white Americans as a whole.
Collectively Americans have lost 138,000 years of potential life. Nearly 46,000 years of human life have been lost among black Americans, 37% more years than white people have lost despite making up a smaller share of the US population (file)
More than 120,000 Americans have now died of coronavirus.
Staggering though that number is, early reports that COVID-19 wa primarily a disease of the elderly and ill have had the grim consequence of making it easy to imagine that this incredible death toll is primarily made up of people who were near the ends of their lives.
But a calculation of years of lives lost speaks not only to the deaths that have occurred, but the lives that won’t be lived due to the pandemic: people who will never see their college graduation, or their children grow up, or their own wedding days.
‘Think of all people do in a year. You work, have babies, get married, make memories,’ tweeted pediatrician and public health expert Dr Rhea Boyd, in reaction to the paper.
‘Black and Latinx populations have lost those opportunities more than 45,000 times from COVID alone.
‘The racial health inequality has cost black and Latinx folks an enormous amount.’
Similarly, the Hispanic and Latinx community collectively lost 48,204 years, further driving home the observation that this pandemic has struck racial minorities in the US far harder than it has white people.
Americans who are black, Latinx, American Indian/Alaska Natives and Asian or Pacific Islanders are also dying younger, the researchers found in their working paper.
In fact, the disparities in years of life lost were greatest among people between ages 25 and 54.
The mortality rate of black Americans between ages 25-34 were 7.3-times higher than those for white people in the same age group.
For Hispanics of that age group, the mortality. rat was nearly eight times higher.
In fact, mortality rates were only similar between white people and racial minorities aged 75 or older.
It underscores a well-documented and painful truth of how much more drastically the pandemic is taking a toll upon non-white Americans.
The reasons for this are complicated and in part reflect disparities that long predate coronavirus, such as the lower average income of black and Latinx people in the US and resulting higher rates of uninsurance or under-insurance.
These factors in turn raise the odds that people will forego preventive care or medical attention when they need it, further fueling high rates of chronic disease.
More particular to the coronavirus pandemic, higher rates of minority people work in service jobs considered ‘essential.’
This has meant that more black and Latinx have had to continue going to work and risking exposure to coronavirus rather than staying quarantined.
These workers – the age under-65s whose years of lost life were the focus of the Harvard paper – are then more likely to return to multigenerational households where the virus can spread like wildfire in close quarters.
For black people between 34 and 44, mortality from COVID-19 was about nine times higher than for that group of white people.
‘You don’t get relative risks for seven- to ninefold for most things in the US for health inequities,’ Dr Nancy Krieger, a study co-author and Harvard epidemiologist told Vox.