ISQ data | Life expectancy rises in Quebec

After a dip in 2020 due to the pandemic, life expectancy in Quebec is rising again. Quebecers are currently living an average of 83, new data released Wednesday shows. That is six years more than in the United States, where the early easing of health measures, but especially the inequality in access to health care weighs heavily on the balance sheet.

Posted at 9.14 am
Updated at 7:57 PM

Henri Ouellette-Vezina

Henri Ouellette-Vezina
The press

The state of affairs

As of 2021, men can expect to live an average of 81.1 years in Quebec and women, 84.9, notes the Quebec Institute of Statistics (ISQ) in a report released Wednesday. For the province, this is an increase compared to 2020, when life expectancy fell due to the pandemic. Quebecers had seen their life expectancy fall from 82.9 years in 2019 to 82.3 years in 2020. Thus, the year 2021 marks a return to the pre-pandemic situation with a life expectancy of 83 years. The ISQ also notes that Quebec stands out internationally, noting that, contrary to what is observed here, “life expectancy in 2021 has not returned to 2019 levels in most countries where data is available.

Clear gap with the United States

The comparison with the United States remains most striking, as the gap with the province in terms of life expectancy has “further widened” during the pandemic. He is now no less than 6 years old. This is considerably more than 20 years ago, when the difference was only 2 years. The gap was 4 years just before the pandemic. “In some places, such as our American neighbors, the situation will have deteriorated even more in 2021 than in 2020. Globally, the norm is really a standstill compared to 2020, or a decline,” explains demographer Frédéric Fleury-Payeur in an interview with The press† He points out that Quebec may have benefited from “several factors”, including strict health measures, population behavior, community transfer, as well as traveler displacement and population density. In the United States “social inequalities, especially in access to health care, can explain this higher mortality”, confirms professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal (ESPUM) Roxane Borges Da Silva. “Because care is very expensive, someone who gets the disease does not always have access to intensive care, for example. A large part of the population is in debt for their health, and that plays a major role,” she notes.


Possible improvement?

While most regions of the world have seen “excessive deaths and declines in life expectancy” since the start of the pandemic, a few countries have managed to do better. “For an evolution comparable to that of Quebec, we can think of Switzerland or, better yet, Norway, which has hardly experienced an excess mortality and which is significantly above its life expectancy in 2019,” explains demographer Frédéric Fleury-Payeur. He adds that countries like Japan and Singapore “serve as best practices in life expectancy around the world.” “When we look at their numbers, we tell ourselves that it is certain that there is still room to increase life expectancy in Quebec. There are currently many works and studies investigating this question, in particular to see how these places manage to reduce their excess mortality to the lowest, in each age group,” says the expert.

Overall excess mortality of 4.5%

If the fifth wave of COVID-19 did indeed lead to strong excess mortality in Quebec in early 2022, its impact appears to have been short-lived. Between the start of the pandemic, in March 2020, and March 12, 2022, the province recorded 4.5% more deaths than expected, the report from the Institute of Statistics reveals. This represents “about 6,400 more deaths than expected, from all causes”. “The Omicron wave caused us to increase slightly, but in two years we can see that it hasn’t had a huge effect on the overall balance sheet. And it is closely related to life expectancy, which is increasing,” recalls Mr Fleury-Payeur. He adds that the excess mortality is “lower than the number of deaths related to COVID-19 reported for the same period”, which can be explained by the “harvest effect”, i.e. the increase in certain deaths, especially in CHSLDs and private homes. for seniors (RPA). Again, a comparison with the United States, which has shown an excess mortality of 18% for two years, shows a significant difference.


A “more controlled” situation

At a news conference on Wednesday, the acting national director of public health, Dr.r Luc Boileau, indicated that no one can rejoice that “just over 15,000 people” [aient] abandoned in Quebec due to COVID-19”. “On the other hand, we were able to show that this mortality was better controlled than elsewhere. It didn’t know the excess we had, especially in the beginning, but overall our excess mortality was lower. […] We are in a pack with very good performances, I would say,” he told reporters, saying he was also “very happy” that life expectancy is increasing all over the province, excellent news for the future of the province, he said.

More information user manual

  • Between 14 and 24 million
    Estimated number of “global additional deaths” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic

    SOURCE: Quebec Statistical Institute

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