COVID-19 – a second European wave?

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With COVID-19 infection rates increasing around Europe, bringing the increased risk of UK tourists returning from their holidays with COVID-19, this virus seems everlasting. So far, thankfully, the number of deaths being reported is not following the same upward path. This may be due to a number of factors such as a lag effect of the progress of the virus, the time lapse in the reporting of deaths, which groups are driving infection rates and how long it takes to infect those most likely to die when infected. As part of our weekly tracking of COVID-19 deaths (which you can access here) we have separated analysed the key risk factors associated with COVID-19 deaths in the UK. They are: 

- Age
– 89% of COVID-19 deaths are in the 65+ age group, 10% in the 45-64 age group and only 1% are in the under 45 age group 

- Underlying health condition(s) – 91% of COVID-19 deaths are associated with a serious underlying health condition. Based on England & Wales data from March to May 2020, the main serious conditions are alzheimer’s and dementia which together account for 26% of cases. The next three highest are heart disease (10%), influenza and pneumonia (9%) and respiratory diseases (8%). On death certificates as well as the ‘main’ pre-existing condition, others are listed, and those dying from COVID-19 had an average of around two conditions.

Data source: ONS


Of course this analysis does not consider the impact on survivors of the virus and the long term implications for those individuals’ health. However, what is clear is that the key factor associated with COVID-19 deaths is age given the underlying health conditions themselves occur more frequently at older ages. This does make me wonder, given the data now publically available from the first wave, whether the vulnerable over 65s are proceeding with caution and it is their younger compatriots, including those holidaying abroad, that are driving infection rates? This may be the case, but if infection rates surge, the risk increases that this will eventually reach those most vulnerable in our society again.

A relatively mature group of the general population are those with a defined benefit pension and this is likely to make them more vulnerable to COVID-19. Therefore, it is crucial for pension schemes to understand whether their members have the underlying health conditions associated with COVID-19 deaths. Are they living in care homes or are they in hospital where they are likely to be more at risk? More widely, will the economic disruption caused by the pandemic reduce the money available to the NHS impact their longevity?

It is therefore very important to identify the health characteristics of your schemes’ membership using profiling techniques to both understand whether services such as mortality screening should be added and to be able to model future longevity in various economic scenarios as part of a risk management framework.

To view our XPS COVID-19 Impact Analytics and videos, click here