Data | COVID-19 not an old man’s disease in poorer nations

Nearly 54% of pandemic-related deaths in lower middle-income countries in 2020 were among people under 65

Using official COVID-19 death counts for 64 countries, a World Bank Policy Research paper has found that middle-income countries saw a higher share of pandemic-related deaths in 2020 of the younger population compared to high-income countries. According to official reports, on average, across high-income countries, just 11% of the deaths were among those aged under 65. In contrast, people under 65 constituted on average 40% of official COVID-19 deaths in upper-middleincome countries and 54% of deaths in lowermiddle-income countries in 2020. The paper argues that differences in the population age structure of nations can only partly answer these contrasting profiles. Both COVID-19 and excess death age mortality curves are flatter in countries with lower incomes, the report finds. The report also observes that the contrasting mortality patterns could be due to a combination of variation in age patterns of infection rates and infection fatality rates.

Varying age profiles

The graph shows the age distribution of officially recorded COVID-19 deaths in 2020 by country. A clear distinction in the age profiles of COVID-19 deaths is observed. Fewer deaths among the young were observed in relatively wealthy nations. This trend does not hold for relatively poor countries.

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Mortality vs GNI per capita

The graph depicts the rate of increase in mortality by age in % per year starting at age 45 against 2019 Gross National Income (GNI) per capita for the 64 countries with official COVID-19 deaths data. The chart shows a positive correlation between income per capita and the age mortality gradient, indicating that COVID-19 mortality increases more steeply for older age groups in richer countries.

Unequal distribution

The graph shows the share of people who received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. With poorer countries vaccinating a relatively smaller share of their population, the danger of younger people dying in those countries continues to be a risk in 2021.

*Data for China reported at irregular intervals.

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