The toll of the coronavirus pandemic has been laid bare in a stark new study.
As well as significant falls in life expectancy in many countries, the number of “years lost” from premature deaths soared.
By comparing the lives cut short by Covid-19 and the estimated life spans of those who died, researchers - led by a team at Oxford University - calculated that more than 28 million “extra years of life” were lost in 2020.
A global study assessed the impact of the pandemic on 37 countries, including England and Wales.
Researchers found reductions in life expectancy in men and women in all countries except New Zealand, Taiwan and Norway, which reported rises in life expectancy in 2020.
There was no change in Denmark, Iceland and South Korea.
The highest reductions in life expectancy were observed in Russia, the US and Bulgaria.
The academics calculated that life expectancy in England and Wales fell by a year – similar to findings from Public Health England earlier this year.
Years of life lost were measured by calculating the difference between observed and expected years a person is expected to live.
The number of years of life lost was higher than expected in all countries except Taiwan, New Zealand, Iceland, Denmark, South Korea, and Norway.
In the remaining 31 countries, about 28 million excess years of life were lost in 2020, according to estimates, with higher rates of “excess years lost” among men compared with women.
The years of life lost as a result of the pandemic were more than five times higher than those associated with the seasonal influenza epidemic in 2015, according to the article published in the BMJ.
The authors wrote: “More than 28 million excess years of life were lost in 2020 in 31 countries, with a higher rate in men than women.
“Excess years of life lost associated with the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 were more than five times higher than those associated with the seasonal influenza epidemic in 2015.”
The figures come after global estimates from Johns Hopkins University suggest that the number of deaths due to Covid-19 around the world has now passed five million.
But the World Health Organisation has said the true figure is much higher.