A Harvard researcher who looked at the life expectancy of 200,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus estimates COVID-19 has cost the United States 2.5 million years of life.
The researcher, molecular biologist and geneticist Stephen Elledge, is the Gregor Mendel Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, both located in Boston, USA Today reported.
Elledge arrived at his findings by estimating the remaining years of life those 200,000 COVID-19 victims likely had. He found that many of those who died were in middle age, and not elderly.
“It was really pretty shocking,” Elledge told USA Today, adding, “the younger half of that population are losing just as much life as the old people. And they really need to know it.”
The genetics professor said many of those killed by the disease could have lived decades more if not for the pandemic.
“Someone who dies in their 50s, for example, loses two to three decades of life expectancy,” said Elledge. He also said COVID-19 may have lasting effects on patients post-infection, and that its effects on young people later in their lives is unknown.
“You’re pushing your age forward,” he said. “All the people who make it through, who knows what’s going to happen to them when they get older.”
Elledge’s work typically encompasses DNA studies, though he wrote up his ideas about cumulative lost years due to COVID-19 deaths using simple calculations in an online report.
He said his findings were aligned with calculations he conducted earlier in the pandemic, adding that he is seeking to get them published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal soon.