COVID deaths in younger people increased last year, deaths in older people decreased: Brigham study


Younger people made up a greater proportion of COVID deaths last year compared to 2020, according to a new study from Boston researchers who found an increase in “years of life lost” due to the virus.

Since March 2020, COVID-related deaths have claimed more than 1 million lives in the U.S. alone.

Most deaths were among older adults during the pandemic’s early phases — but in 2021 as more older adults got vaccinated, deaths in younger persons increased while deaths in older persons decreased, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers found in the study.

“There were a lot of changes between the first and second years of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mark Czeisler, medical student at Harvard Medical School and member of the Brigham’s Department of Psychiatry.

“Researchers have sought to understand the impacts of advances in COVID-19 treatments, immunity due to vaccinations and infections, and scientific knowledge of the COVID-19 virus and emerging variants,” Czeisler added. “But prior to our study, there was less attention on quantifying premature mortality associated with COVID-19 in 2021 versus 2020.”

Earlier in the pandemic, age and pre-existing conditions played a major role in developing public health advice. But by early 2021, the COVID landscape had shifted completely: Vaccines became available, treatments advanced, and people’s behaviors changed.

While 2020 COVID death rates were high among older adults, those older adults got vaccinated at a higher rate and more strictly followed nonpharmaceutical interventions throughout 2021, such as masking and social distancing.



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