Covid slows down population growth and Brazil may have demographic impact for generations

Covid slows down population growth and Brazil may have demographic impact for generations
Covid slows down population growth and Brazil may have demographic impact for generations

Health professional takes care of Covid-19 patient at Hospital São Paulo (REUTERS / Amanda Perobelli)

BRASÍLIA (Reuters) – In March, when Brazil became the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, for the first time a Brazilian state registered more deaths than births, in a movement that could spread throughout the country and will bring reflexes not only to the health of Brazilians, but economic and demographic impacts for the next generations.

Hit in full by the collapse of the health system caused by the explosion of cases in Covid-19, Rio Grande do Sul recorded in March the deaths of 15,736 people – more than twice the deaths registered in the same month in the previous two years -, while 11,921 births were registered, according to data from the national civil registry of the Transparency Portal.

With an elderly population larger than the national average, Rio Grande do Sul was the first, but it may not be the only state to reach the sad milestone in the coming months. In at least seven states, including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the number of deaths is dangerously close to the number of births, according to the data.

“In April it will be even worse. Brazil may have the first moment in its history when deaths will surpass births, which would show the impact of Covid-19’s already structural and demographic pandemic in the country, ”neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis, who closely follows the advancement of Covid-19 in Brazil since the beginning of the pandemic.

In the first three months of 2021, with each recorded death, there was 1.47 births. A much lower number than the same period in 2020, when 2.10 births were registered for each death.

The impacts of this reduction will appear, in the coming years, on the population’s life expectancy, but also on the demographic profile, education and income of Brazilians.

In December 2020, when the outbreak of the epidemic was just beginning, a survey by the Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea) calculated a 2.2-year drop in life expectancy for Brazilians in 2020, the first year of the epidemic.

By December, 191,000 Brazilians had died from Covid-19. Since then, however, deaths have accelerated and completed the month of March at almost 330,000 deaths, which could have an even greater impact.

“We have a high mortality rate among the elderly. This alone already has a huge impact on the country’s age structure. In the last few years we have seen an increase in the aging of the population and an increase in life expectancy after 60 years of age. It was a gain for society. With this higher mortality among the elderly, we will have a reduction in life expectancy from the age of 60 ”, said the doctor in demography Ana Maria Nogales Vasconcelos, from the University of Brasília (UnB).

However, the demographic impact goes beyond the elderly, since the epidemic in Brazil has started to “rejuvenate”, with more and more people between 30 and 59 years of age being infected and hospitalized in serious condition.

In an epidemiological bulletin, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) pointed to a considerable increase in contamination among the youngest – 565.08% between 30 and 39 years old; 626% between 40 and 49 years old; and 525.93% between 50 and 59 years old – which suggests, according to the researchers, a displacement of the pandemic for the youngest.

In the case of deaths, the growth was smaller, but still significant: an increase of 352.62% from 30 to 39 years, 419.23% for the age group from 40 to 49 years old and from 317.08% between 50 and 59 years old.

“In fact, the average age of hospitalized patients has been decreasing progressively. The average age of cases in week 1 of 2021 was 62 years and deaths were 71 years. The data show that in epidemiological week 10, the values ​​were 58 years for new cases and 66 years for deaths ”, says the Foundation’s bulletin.

The so-called rejuvenation of the pandemic occurred simultaneously with the advance of the P.1 variant, which originated in Manaus and has greater dissemination power. Epidemiologists point to the variant as one of the factors responsible for the coronavirus explosion in Brazil this year, making the country the new epicenter of the disease.

“Due to the characteristics of this variant, which is more contagious and worsens faster, but also due to the lack of control of the pandemic, the contamination of the youngest, the economically active population, has increased,” said epidemiologist Pedro Hallal, from the Federal University of Pelotas. “We are going to have an impact on life expectancy and also an economic impact that will take years and years and years to recover.”

Ana Maria Vasconcelos, from UnB, predicts a smaller population growth, a decrease in some places, especially in rural cities with an older population, and a considerable economic and social impact on families.

“Certainly the mortality of the adult population in the productive and reproductive phase has a very big impact not only now, but in the future,” he told Reuters.

The demographer calculates impacts on the income and education of Brazilians not only due to early deaths, but also because of the consequences that Covid-19 can leave and the reduction in the work capacity of these people, which can directly impact on the families’ income.

“I see very difficult scenarios for the country. It is necessary to think about consensus and look at what we need to treat our population and support families, ”he said. “The most impacted people, with the lowest income, are less able to get out of this risky situation imposed on them, they have no work. They are losses of a generation. ”

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