CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic saw rising death rates, both from COVID-19 and other causes, but the hardest-hit groups shifted between the first and the second year, according to an analysis of publicly available data.
Both years saw an increase in deaths over the five years before the pandemic, even with COVID-19 numbers suppressed. But while the first year was the deadliest for people over 65, the second year hit middle-aged adults the hardest, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-founded. Champagne. Carle Illinois College of Medicine and Professor of Computer Science Sheldon H. Jacobson and Janet A. Jokela, acting Associate Executive Dean of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine (CI MED), along with graduate student Ian Ludden, published their findings in the Health Sciences journal of care management.
“Had the pandemic not struck, many of these people would potentially still be alive today – not just from deaths from COVID-19, but from the changes that have transformed society and led to death. premature people,” Jacobson said. , a data scientist affiliated with the Department of Biomedical and Translational Sciences at Carle Illinois. “So the question is, what can we do better in the future?”
The new study builds on an analysis published by Jacobson and Jokela in 2021 that looked at excess deaths in the first year of the pandemic. The new study provides insight into trends in death rates among various demographic groups from year to year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ludden said.
“The big trends we see are that the second year, from April 2021 to March 2022, was more difficult for middle-aged subgroups, while deaths decreased for older people,” he said. -he declares.
The drop in deaths among the older age groups can in part be attributed to displaced deaths – the phenomenon of deaths occurring earlier than they statistically would have, so that they cannot reoccur later. However, the data also provides evidence that higher vaccination rates among older people from the second year of the pandemic reduced mortality among them, Ludden said. “This highlights the importance of vaccination as a preventive measure,” he said.
For the second year of increases in the number of deaths among middle-aged groups, with the largest increase in mortality among men and women aged 25 to 54, the researchers pointed to several likely contributing factors.
“We know the delta variant was increasing at that time, and it seemed to have a deeper impact on the middle and younger age groups than before,” Jokela said. “We also know from other studies that preventative care has declined during the pandemic.”
While other researchers and public health experts have also suggested that the rise in non-COVID-19 deaths may be the ripple effects of delayed routine wellness checks, chronic disease management , cancer screenings and mental health care, public health officials and healthcare providers have little ability to fix the problem or see how far the ripples are spreading without real-time data available on non-COVID-19 causes of death, the researchers said.
“We’ve struggled to have data to inform decision-making, and that’s simply because the infrastructure doesn’t support timely data collection and reporting. That means we’re basically walking in a fog and trying to make decisions with incomplete information,” Jacobson said.
The researchers plan to continue to analyze the data and track ongoing trends in mortality, to see if shift effects among middle-aged and older age groups impact mortality over the next few years and how long it takes to return to the pre-pandemic statistical base. They also hope to analyze more cause-of-death data as the CDC releases it in the coming years.
“This analysis is in many ways an urgent call to support public health infrastructure so that we can respond better and in a more informed way,” Jokela said. “It is extremely important that we learn from our experiences. We need to explore what happened here and use this information wisely so that public health officials, clinicians, health care officials and others can make the most informed decisions in the future. .
The National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship Program supported Ludden under DGE Grant – 1746047.
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