COVID drives record annual decline in Canadians' life expectancy -Statscan

Humber River Hospital in Toronto
ICU doctor Jamie Spiegelman speaks to a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient before intubation as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to put pressure on Humber River Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 20, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

Jan 24 (Reuters) - COVID-19 contributed to the biggest annual reduction in life expectancy on record in Canada in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, Statistics Canada said in preliminary findings released on Monday.

While COVID was the third-leading cause of deaths in 2020, Statscan said the impact from the pandemic also likely contributed indirectly with a rise in deaths due to factors such as delayed medical procedures and increased drug-use.

The findings were largely in line with an Oxford University study last year that said life expectancy in 2020 fell by more than six months annually in 22 out of the 29 countries the university looked at.

Life expectancy in Canada declined by about 0.6 years to 81.7 years in 2020, when authorities depended on lockdowns and other restrictive measures to combat virus infections.

"The pandemic has had a significant impact on mortality in Canada, contributing to the largest annual decline in life expectancy" since 1921, when the current system of measuring mortality was set up.

The largest declines were observed in provinces including Ontario and Quebec, which together account for more than 60% of Canada's population of about 38 million.

COVID-19 accounted for 5.3% of all deaths in Canada in 2020, behind cancer (26.4%) and heart disease (17.5%).

A study released Monday by the Angus Reid Institute found that Canadians were fatigued, frustrated and anxious after having to deal with COVID for more than two years. About one-in-three Canadians also said they were struggling with their mental health, according to the study.

Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by David Ljunggren and Lisa Shumaker

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