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Business News/ Science / Health/  COVID-19 effect: Global healthy life expectancy drops back to 2012 level, says WHO
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COVID-19 effect: Global healthy life expectancy drops back to 2012 level, says WHO

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a decline in global life expectancy by 1.8 years and healthy life expectancy by 1.5 years, erasing almost a decade of progress, according to WHO.

FILE PHOTO: The World Health Organisation (WHO) logo is seen near its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, February 2, 2023. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo (REUTERS)Premium
FILE PHOTO: The World Health Organisation (WHO) logo is seen near its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, February 2, 2023. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo (REUTERS)

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the COVID-19 pandemic has erased almost ten years of advancements in enhancing life expectancy in just two years.

In an official statement, WHO said, “From 2019 to 2021, the global life expectancy declined by 1.8 years to reach 71.4 years, returning to the level seen in 2012. Similarly, the global healthy life expectancy decreased by 1.5 years to 61.9 years in 2021, also reverting to the level observed in 2012."

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The 2024 report also underscored the unequal impact felt across the globe. Regions such as the Americas and Southeast Asia bore the brunt, experiencing a significant decline in life expectancy by around 3 years and healthy life expectancy by 2.5 years between 2019 and 2021.

Meanwhile, the Western Pacific Region saw minimal effects during the initial two years of the pandemic, with losses of less than 0.1 years and 0.2 years in healthy life expectancy.

“There continues to be major progress in global health, with billions of people who are enjoying better health, better access to services, and better protection from health emergencies," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

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“But we must remember how fragile progress can be. In just two years, the COVID-19 pandemic erased a decade of gains in life expectancy. That's why the new Pandemic Agreement is so important: not only to strengthen global health security, but to protect long-term investments in health and promote equity within and between countries," Ghebreyesus added.

Health challenges

The report further highlights the significant health challenges faced by persons with disabilities, refugees and migrants. In 2021, about 1.3 billion people, or 16% of the global population, had a disability. This group is disproportionately affected by health inequities resulting from avoidable, unjust and unfair conditions.

The report also underscores the considerable health hurdles encountered by individuals with disabilities, refugees, and migrants.

In 2021, approximately 1.3 billion people, constituting 16% of the global population, were living with disabilities. 

Triple Billion targets

Billion targets and health-related indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Since 2018, an additional 1.5 billion people have experienced improved health and well-being. However, progress is impeded by challenges such as rising obesity rates, high tobacco use, and persistent air pollution, WHO said.

Universal Health Coverage has expanded to encompass 585 million more people, although falling short of the target of one billion. Moreover, only 777 million more individuals are expected to be adequately protected during health emergencies by 2025, failing to meet the one billion target outlined in the WHO's 13th General Programme of Work. 

“While we have made progress towards the Triple Billion targets since 2018, a lot still needs to be done. Data is WHO’s superpower. We need to use it better to deliver more impact in countries," said Dr Samira Asma, WHO Assistant Director-General for Data, Analytics and Delivery for Impact. “Without accelerating progress, it is unlikely that any of the health SDGs will be met by 2030."

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Published: 25 May 2024, 12:09 PM IST
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