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Biggest fall since WWII: How Covid slashed life expectancy in Switzerland

Coronavirus has impacted the Swiss population in many ways, including how long they are expected to live.

Coronavirus impacted life expectancy in Switzerland.
Due to the Covid pandemic, which claimed a number of lives, longevity took a hit in Switzerland. Photo by Noelle Otto from Pexels

For years, the Swiss have enjoyed enviable lifespans that were among the longest in the world. They still rank high on the global scale, but the pandemic has put a dent in the average life expectancy of the population.

In 2020, a year marked by Covid, life expectancy at birth fell to 81.0 for men and 85.1 for women — a decline of 0.9 and 0.5 years, respectively, compared with the previous year, according to new data released by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO)  on Monday.

EXPLAINED: How the Covid pandemic has changed Switzerland

In 2019, men’s life expectancy at birth was 81.9 years and women’s 85.6.

Such a decline had not been observed since 1944 among men and 1962 among women, according to the mortality tables calculated by the FSO.

READ MORE: Swiss hospitals: Sharp increase in the number of Covid patients in intensive care

Cantons with highest and lowest life expectancies

The highest life expectancies for women in 2020 were in Appenzell Innerrhoden (87.3 years), Zug (86.2) and Uri (86.2). Nidwalden was the best for men in 2020 (83.7), Zug (82.9) and Basel-Country (82.3).

On the other hand, the most marked decreases recorded between 2019 and 2020 are in Obwalden (-2.5 years), Ticino (-2.3 years) and Geneva (-2.3 years) for men, and in Jura (-1.8 years), Geneva (-1.5 years) and Schwyz (-1.4 years) for women.

An “exceptional decrease” in life expectancy at 65 years

Due to Covid-related deaths, life expectancy at age 65 for men decreased from 20.0 years to 19.3 years between 2019 and 2020. For women, it dropped from 22.7 years to 22.2 years.

At the cantonal level, the strongest decline in life expectancies at age 65 for men are in Schwyz (-2.1 years), Geneva (-1.8 years) and Ticino (-1.8 years), and for women in Jura (-1.8 years), Obwalden (-1.7 years), Vaud (-1.4 years). and Ticino (-1.4 years).

READ MORE: Why does Switzerland have the most Covid-related ICU admissions in Europe?

A number of deaths “never before seen in Switzerland”

“The year 2020 is special in several respects: it stands out first of all with a record number of deaths (76,195 compared to 67,780 in 2019). Such a high value has never been observed in Switzerland since the systematic registration of deaths by civil status offices in 1876”, FSO noted.

Between 2019 and 2020, the number of deaths increased more sharply in the cantons located in the west and south of Switzerland.

The variation is between + 25 percent and + 27 percent in Geneva, in Jura and in Ticino. In the cantons of Obwalden, Schwyz, Vaud and Friborg, the increase in the number of deaths also exceeds 20 percent.

In Nidwalden, on the other hand, the number of deaths fell slightly (-0.3 percent) and in the cantons of Graubünden, Glarus, Basel-Stadt and Schaffhausen, the increase remained below 5 percent.

The increase in deaths was therefore smaller in cantons in the north and east of Switzerland.

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