How Have Demographics Changed with COVID-19?

With more than 6 million deaths from COVID-19 and the impact of the crisis on health systems, the pandemic has generated changes in global demographics.

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: ¿Cómo ha cambiado la demografía con la COVID-19?

The health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has created great challenges for humanity. Although with the advancement of vaccination, Covid-19 is generating fewer and fewer deaths, today it is necessary to analyze how world demographics have changed due to the deaths caused by this disease. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that real deaths are two or three times higher than those reported, which today are around 6'210,719.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, ECLAC, carried out a report at the end of 2021 in which it stated that "COVID-19 mortality has significantly impacted the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. The region has 32.1% of the total deaths from COVID-19 reported in the world, while its population represents only 8.4% of the world population." In addition, mortality and the risk of contagion have been greater for vulnerable populations, due to their unfavorable socioeconomic conditions and overcrowding.

After the pandemic, these unfavorable conditions have increased in most countries, with a growth in poverty and inequality. ECLAC estimates that by 2021 extreme poverty increased from 81 to 86 million in Latin America. These factors act like a snowball, which are associated with the development of diseases due to the deterioration of the quality of life.

Likewise, during the pandemic there were worrying situations regarding access to contraceptive methods in low- and middle-income countries. The United Nations Population Fund reported nearly 12 million women were unable to access family planning services as a result of the pandemic. In this way, up to 2.7 million unwanted pregnancies may have occurred.

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On the other hand, the European countries where the most deaths have been caused by COVID-19, in proportion to their population, have been Poland, Italy and Spain. An investigation published in the Social Panorama Magazine indicates that in Spain the changes in the number of migrants and in the deaths of the older population were circumstantial. However, it seems that the pandemic has reinforced the downward trend in the birth rate, which characterizes most European countries. "The suffocating weight of an uncertain future has prevailed over maternity decisions, collapsing an already very low fertility, to which is added the cancellation of weddings and the consequent continuation of the decline in marriage rates," the investigation indicated.

A publication in the Journal of Population Aging concludes that this pandemic is not likely to bring a baby boom, as has happened with others, but rather will be more marked by "a major economic downturn that was spurred on by the public health response: it is loss of jobs and homes, and anxiety and fear about the future are likely to frame the perspective of many young people today.

The pandemic worsened the situation of other diseases

In recent years, and especially in the most critical moments of the pandemic, health efforts have focused on the care of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2. This caused many patients with other diseases to be neglected, as well as early diagnoses of other diseases.

Just to give an example, according to information from the Pan American Health Organization, it is estimated that annual deaths from tuberculosis increased by 3,000 deaths, during 2020 due to the interruption of essential services. This meant that it was the first time in a decade that tuberculosis deaths increased, rather than decreased, in Latin America.

However, the impact of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic not only affects the number of deaths related to the disease, the increase in births due to lack of access to family planning or the neglect of other diseases. The impact of the pandemic will have medium and long-term effects that will also affect the composition of the world population, such as the increase in poverty and inequality, or the deepening of certain environmental problems. These will also encourage an increase in migratory flows, in search of better opportunities.

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