New research measuring the impact of COVID-19 on the future life expectancy of older people in the surviving population has been published by The Pensions Institute.The paper – The Impact of COVID-19 on Future Higher-Age Mortality – focuses on England and Wales and assesses the implications of the pandemic for pension funds, insurance companies and academics who model and measure longevity risk. It also provides a framework for analysing future data on the virus.Its authors are Professor Andrew Cairns, department of actuarial mathematics and statistics, Heriot-Watt University; Professor David Blake, Cass Business School and director of the Pensions Institute; Amy Kessler, head of longevity risk transfer, Prudential Retirement; and Marsha Kessler, CEO of M Kessler Group, a speciality consulting firm focused on data-driven transformation in healthcare.While other COVID-19 research covers the spread and control of the virus, the authors of the study believe it is the first to cover mortality of the surviving population after the pandemic has abated. Research has found that COVID-19 seems to increase each cohort’s short-term mortality risk by a common multiplicative factorThey observed that some surviving patients who needed intensive care could acquire a new impairment such as kidney damage, which will reduce their life expectancy.Furthermore, many people in lockdown have not sought timely medical assessments for potential new illnesses such as cancer, with the consequence that mortality rates unrelated to COVID-19 could increase in future.Other indirect consequences include increased alcohol consumption, and poorer health and even suicides as a result of long-term unemployment.However, some people may retain healthier lifestyles adopted during lockdown, which could increase their life expectancy.PredictionsThe authors said their research provides not only data, but a simple and flexible modelling framework which will be effective using future data, without the need to change existing models.They also predict a total of 80,000 COVID-19-related deaths in England and Wales. However, the model’s flexibility means it can be applied to different levels of such deaths.Blake told IPE: “It can also be applied to different European countries. While the different parameters will have to be changed to match the circumstances of each country, the model itself does not have to be changed.”Such parameters could include patterns of infection and death rates at different ages, and the years of life lost by those who die from COVID-19, again at different ages.Kessler told IPE: “Whether for valuations, pricing or the underwriting of risk, the industry has been waiting for this kind of framework.”She continued: “There are three major challenges in working with data relating to the pandemic: adjusting experience data from the pandemic period; making assumptions about anti-selection risk going forward; and assessing volatility to come. The great thing is this research addresses all three challenges.”The research is available here.To read the digital edition of IPE’s latest magazine click here. The paper’s key finding is that COVID-19 seems to increase each cohort’s short-term mortality risk by a common multiplicative factor. In other words, if mortality rates rise temporarily at 10% in relative terms at one age, they will also rise by about 10% at other ages.Blake told IPE: “Unlike other research, our finding is that there is some early acceleration of death and that those who die would likely have done so within, say, a few years from other causes such as respiratory disease. That should, therefore, lead to fewer deaths in the short term from other causes.”The researchers also examined how socio-economic differences impact COVID-19 mortality.They found that once they controlled for regional differences in mortality rates, COVID-19 deaths in both the most and least deprived groups are proportional to the all-cause mortality of these groups.However, the groups in between have lower COVID-19 deaths – by around 10-15% – compared with their all-cause mortality.“The reason for this is not clear, although it might be because they were better able to adapt to lockdown and maintain more effective social distancing than the other groups,” said Blake.And current behavioural responses to the pandemic were also examined.