Schemes urged to consider future mortality assumptions amid Covid legacy

Pension schemes have been urged to consider the make-up and demographic breakdown of their members after new analysis suggested that the mortality legacy of Covid-19 is likely to far outlast the pandemic itself.

Analysis of Office of National Statistics (ONS) data by LCP partner, Dr Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, revealed “persistent high levels” of people dying at home from causes other than Covid-19, at the same time as excess deaths in care homes and hospitals were falling.

In addition to this, it found that there had been “surprisingly” big increases of excess deaths in the middle-aged sections of society, with an average of 10 per cent more deaths in middle-aged adults between 50-64 since 1 April 2021.

The high levels of deaths, according to LCP, should be attributed to a number of factors, including disruption to normal care pathways for diseases such as heart disease and cancer, increasing waiting lists, and people being more reluctant to seek medical help than pre-pandemic.

The consultancy also suggested that the trend is a reflection of the indirect impacts of the pandemic, which could entrench the widening gap between rich and poor on life expectancy.

Indeed, LCP estimated that a middle-aged man aged 57 who is a manual worker living in Manchester and lives with a chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes and is in the most deprived 10 per cent of the country, will face "significantly worse" mortality outcomes than before Covid-19 due to the indirect trends of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, an 81-year-old woman with no chronic disease from Richmond, London, which has some of the best health outcomes in the country, can expect almost no long-term health detriment as a result of the pandemic.

Commenting on the findings, Pearson-Stuttard said: “At the height of the pandemic many pension schemes were focused on what the direct mortality impact would be of Covid and how it would impact their assumptions.

“What we are now seeing is the lasting, enduring and indirect legacy of the pandemic which could be with us for years to come.

"The longer we see persistently high levels of deaths at home, the more likely it is to exacerbate the chasm in life expectancies between rich and poor and we may see life expectancies going backwards.

“Schemes should look at the demographics of their members and have an eye to the future about what this might mean for future mortality assumptions.”

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