American Academy of Actuaries: Some Estimates of Pandemic-Related Life Expectancy Changes Can Be Misleading



The American Academy of Actuaries has released a new public policy paper and issue brief cautioning that clarification may be needed regarding estimated life expectancy showing significant decreases in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Reports of considerable decreases in life expectancy driven by COVID-19 may certainly garner attention, but they can potentially be misleading when based on a technical measure that assumes heightened pandemic mortality will persist indefinitely,” said Academy Senior Pension Fellow Linda K. Stone. “Service to the public is core to the American Academy of Actuaries’ mission, and we would be remiss not to share the actuarial profession’s expertise to help the public interpret such reports.”

The Academy’s new Essential Elements paper, Clarifying Misunderstanding of Life Expectancy and COVID-19, which is based on a December 2021 issue brief developed by the Academy’s Pension Committee, Interpreting Pandemic-Related Decreases in Life Expectancy, cites the potential of confusion arising from recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates of significant life expectancy decreases primarily due to COVID-19. The CDC used a measurement known as “period life expectancy” to estimate life expectancy changes in 2020, publishing in July 2021 a preliminary estimate of a 1.5-year year-over-year decrease, and in December 2021 a final estimate of a 1.8-year decrease. However, the CDC’s methodology and the estimated decreases assume that the heightened mortality of the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020 year will persist indefinitely—an unlikely scenario.

Author(s): American Academy of Actuaries

Publication Date: 14 Feb 2022

Publication Site: PRNEWSWIRE

Clarifying Misunderstanding of Life Expectancy and COVID-19




Basically, there are two life expectancy measures—
period life expectancy and cohort life expectancy.
Period life expectancy generally is based on the
assumption that current rates of death continue
indefinitely. Cohort life expectancy is more heavily
influenced by long-term expectations. Period life
expectancies can vary dramatically from one year to the
next when there is a short-term increase in mortality.


Period life expectancy can be a
useful metric for year-over-year
comparisons in normal times but
tends to exaggerate the effect of
nonrecurring events. Cohort life
expectancy is likely what most people
envision when thinking about the
concept of life expectancy because
cohort life expectancy is an estimate
of the actual number of years
that a typical individual might be
expected to live based on reasonable
expectations for future conditions.
For this reason, cohort life expectancy
is the measure used by the Actuaries
Longevity Illustrator that can help
individuals estimate how long they
might live.

Publication Date: Feb 2022

Publication Site: American Academy of Actuaries