COVID-19 deaths are commoner among care-home residents, but the mortality burden has not been quantified.
Care-home residency was identified via a national primary care registration database linked to mortality data. Life expectancy was estimated using Makeham-Gompertz models, to (i) describe yearly life expectancy from November 2015 to October 2020 (ii) compare life expectancy (during 2016–2018) between care-home residents and the wider population and (iii) apply care-home life expectancy estimates to COVID-19 death counts to estimate years of life lost (YLL).
Among care-home residents, life expectancy in 2015/16 to 2019/20 ranged from 2.7 to 2.3 years for women and 2.3 to 1.8 years for men. Age-sex specific life expectancy in 2016–2018 in care-home residents was lower than in the Scottish population (10 and 2.5 years in those aged 70 and 90 respectively). Applying care-home specific life expectancies to COVID-19 deaths yields, mean YLLs for care-home residents of 2.6 and 2.2 for women and men respectively. In total YLL care-home residents have lost 3,560 years in women and 2,046 years in men. Approximately half of deaths and a quarter of YLL attributed to COVID-19 were accounted for by the 5% of over-70s who were care-home residents.
COVID-19 infection has led to the loss of substantial years of life in care-home residents aged 70 years and over in Scotland. Prioritising the 5% of older adults who are care-home residents for vaccination is justified not only in terms of total deaths, but also in terms of years of life lost.
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Burton, J., Reid, M., Gribben, C., Caldwell, D., Clark, D., Hanlon, P., Quinn, T., Fischbacher, C., Knight, P., Guthrie, B. & McAllister, D. 2021, 'Impact of COVID-19 on care-home mortality and life expectancy in Scotland', Age and Ageing. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afab080