Analysis found that for middle-aged people, the second year of the outbreak was more deadly than the first year Carle Illinois College of Medicine

CHAMPAGNE, Illinois — The first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic saw increased death rates, both from COVID-19 and other causes, but the hardest-hit groups transitioned between years one and two, according to an analysis of publicly available data.

<  em>  Each of the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic was more deadly than the previous five years, even with COVID-19 deaths removed.  And a study in Illinois found that the age groups most affected were different from year one to year two.  Pictured, from left: Ian Ludden, graduate student;  Janet A.  Jokela, interim executive assistant dean for the Carle Illinois College of Medicine;  Sheldon H. Jacobson, Professor of Computer Science, Biomedical Sciences, and Translation, CI MED.  Photo by Michelle Hassell <  /em>” width=”1200″/><figcaption><em>Each of the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic was more deadly than the previous five years, even with COVID-19 deaths removed.  And a study in Illinois found that the age groups most affected were different from year one to year two.  Pictured, from left: Ian Ludden, graduate student;  Janet A.  Jokela, interim executive assistant dean for the Carle Illinois College of Medicine;  Sheldon H. Jacobson, Professor of Computer Science, Biomedical Sciences, and Translation, CI MED.  Photo by Michelle Hassell</em></figcaption></figure>
<p>Both years saw an increase in deaths over the five years leading up to the pandemic, even with the COVID-19 numbers removed.  But while the first year was the most deadly for those over 65, the second year was the most harmful for middle-aged adults, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers found.  Carl Illinois College of Medicine and Professor of Computer Science <a rel=Sheldon H. Jacobson and Janet A. Jokela, interim executive assistant dean for Carle Illinois College of Medicine (CI MED), along with a graduate student Ian LuddenTheir findings appear in the journal Health Care Management Science.

“If the pandemic had not struck, many of these people would probably still be alive today — not just because of COVID-19 deaths, but as a result of changes that have altered society and resulted in people dying prematurely,” Jacobson said. , a data scientist affiliated with the Department of Biomedical and Translational Sciences at Carle Illinois University. “So the question is, what can we do better in the future?”

The new study builds on an analysis by Jacobson and Jokella published in 2021 focusing on excess deaths during the first year of the pandemic. The new study gives 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 is that the second year, from April 2021 through March 2022, was more difficult for the middle-aged subgroups, while for the elderly, deaths decreased,” he said.

The decline in deaths among higher age groups can be attributed in part to displaced deaths – the phenomenon of deaths occurring earlier than they would statistically occur, so they cannot happen again at a later time. However, the data also provides evidence that higher vaccination rates among older adults beginning in the second year of the pandemic reduced deaths among older adults, Ludden said. “This underscores the importance of vaccination as a preventive measure,” he said.

For the increase in the numbers of deaths in the second year among middle age groups, with the greatest increase in deaths in both males and females ages 25 to 54, the researchers pointed to several possible contributing factors.

“We know that the delta variable was rising at that time, and that seemed to be affecting the middle and young age groups more profoundly than it did before,” Jokella said. “We also know, from other studies, that preventive care decreased during a pandemic.”

While other researchers and public health experts have also suggested that the increase in non-COVID-19 deaths could be a ripple effect of delaying routine wellness screenings, chronic condition management, cancer screenings, and mental health care, public health officials and health care providers have limited ability to address the problem, the researchers said. Or see how common the ripples are without real-time data on causes of death other than COVID-19.

“We struggled with getting data to inform decision making, simply because the infrastructure does not support timely collection and reporting of data. This means we are walking in a fog and trying to make decisions with incomplete information,” Jacobson said.

The researchers plan to continue analyzing the data and following persistent trends in mortality, to see if the effects of displacement between middle-aged and older groups affect mortality in the next few years and how long it takes to return to a pre-pandemic statistical baseline. 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 the public health infrastructure so that we can respond better and in a more informed way,” Jokella said. “It is critical that we learn from our experiences. We need to explore what happened here and use this information well so that public health officials, physicians, healthcare leaders, and others can make the most informed decisions in the future.”

Support for the Ludden National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under DGE Grant – 1746047.

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