What the Health Profile for England shows us about the wider impacts of COVID-19 on health: Gov.uk

SOURCE: https://ukhsa.blog.gov.uk/2021/09/15/what-the-health-profile-for-england-shows-us-about-the-wider-impacts-of-covid-19-on-health/

Health profile for England 2021

This update looks at a range of population health data, such as smoking and obesity, but it also provides an early summary of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on many aspects of health and health inequalities.

1. Mortality was higher than previous years

In 2020, COVID-19 was the leading underlying cause of death among males, replacing heart disease, and the second largest cause of death among females after dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. By the end of June 2021, 132,053 deaths had been registered with COVID-19 mentioned on the death certificate among England residents.

2. Dementia deaths increased, and diagnoses declined

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease remained the leading cause of death in England in females and the third largest in males. Deaths from dementia continued to increase in 2020 and dementia was reported as the main pre-existing health condition in 26% of all deaths involving COVID-19 between March and June 2020.

3. Health services were not used as much

During the pandemic, hospital admissions, A&E attendances and the number of GP consultations were all down, particularly in the first wave of the pandemic. Surveys show that half of people with a worsening health condition between May 2020 and January 2021 did not seek treatment, most commonly because they did not want to put pressure on the NHS or were concerned about catching COVID-19. This has meant that new diagnoses for some diseases this year were considerably down compared with previous years. This includes cancer, for which there were 16% less diagnoses between April and December 2020 than in the same months in 2019, as seen in Figure 3 below.

4. Children’s development may have suffered

Whilst the full impact of the pandemic on child health and development is still not known and will not be known for some time, initial studies suggest that children who started school in the Autumn 2020 term needed additional support when compared with children in previous academic years and that learning has suffered to some degree for most pupils and year groups, particularly primary and more disadvantaged students.

Almost all schools have indicated that they are concerned about young pupils’ communication and language development, personal, social and emotional development and levels of literacy as children were not experiencing the social interactions that they usually would, such as play dates and interacting with grandparents.

In 2020, one in six children aged five to 16 years were identified as having a probable mental disorder, increasing from one in nine in 2017. Children and young adults with a probable mental disorder were more likely to say that lockdown had made their life worse.

5. Increased alcohol consumption among heavy drinkers likely drove a rise in alcoholic liver deaths

There has been an unprecedented increase in alcohol-specific deaths (deaths which were caused by alcohol use), mainly due to increased alcoholic liver disease mortality. In 2020, alcohol-specific deaths increased by 20% compared to 2019. Although alcohol-specific mortality rates have been increasing in recent years, this represented a significant acceleration in the upward trend.

A recent PHE report monitoring alcohol consumption and harms during the pandemic noted that the increase in alcoholic liver disease mortality was ‘likely to be due to increased consumption among an already at-risk group of heavy drinkers’.

6. Increased mortality has impacted on life expectancy

The high number of deaths due to COVID-19 caused life expectancy in England to fall in 2020, by 1.3 years for males to 78.7 years and 0.9 years for females to 82.7 years. This is the lowest life expectancy since 2011 for males and females.

The pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities in life expectancy by deprivation to the largest we have seen in two decades, which is as far back as our data goes. The gap between the most and least deprived areas in England in 2020 was10.3 years for males, one year larger than in 2019, and 8.3 years for females, 0.6 years larger than in 2019.


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