Flu waves reduce life expectancy

For some time, film legend Ellen Schwiers (88, “08/15”, “Our Charly”) suffers from extreme nerve pains that run from the back through the entire body. At her home on Lake Starnberg, she is treated palliatively around the clock – but nothing helps.

Flu waves reduce life expectancy

The severe influenza waves of recent years could have had a negative impact on the development of life expectancy in Germany. The researchers of the Berlin Robert Koch Institute (RKI) assume this with a view to the statistics of the past 25 years. During this time, the average life expectancy of women increased from 79 to 83.2 years. Among men, it grew from 72.5 to 78.4 years, according to the RKI’s “Journal of Health Monitoring “. However, the researchers repeatedly observe puzzling little interruptions in this continuous increase – for example in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

The scientists do not consider this a mere coincidence. For 2013, 2015 and 2017 were years in Germany with strikingly strong flu episodes, estimated each demanded about 20,000 deaths more than usual – especially among older people.

Many factors affect life expectancy

The rise in life expectancy, however, will be influenced by many factors, it says in the investigation. For example, effects such as medical care and prevention were more likely to have a long-term effect.

The growing life expectancy in Germany until the mid-20th century resulted mainly from a decline in mortality in infants, children and young adults. Since then, declining mortality rates among older people have been responsible for the steady increase. Flu waves might put a slight damper on that in the short term.

Life expectancy of poorer people remains lower

The recent study again confirms how much social differences still affect life expectancy. Before their 65th birthday, 13 percent of women and 27 percent of men from the lowest income group die. For high earners, it is only 8 percent of women and 14 percent of men. These differences have remained the same for 25 years.

The RKI evaluated for the investigation official death records and data from the SOEP household survey, which allows statements about social and economic contexts. Social inequality has a “central importance” for public health because of its “massive impact” on public health, said RKI boss Lothar Wieler. The Berlin Institute is the central government agency for disease surveillance and health prevention.