South Africa

Life expectancy could decrease in SA as GDP drops due to Covid-19: report

Life expectancy could decrease in SA as GDP drops due to Covid-19: report

The life expectancy of South Africans is projected to decrease with every 1% decrease in gross domestic product (GDP) as a result of Covid-19, according to a trends report commissioned by Liberty.

The Covid-19 Trends Report: Navigating the Flux explores the future health risks of Covid-19 on South Africans.

This is associated with the notion that a sick nation directly correlates with a weak economy.

National treasury has already predicted a contraction of the economy, and the health and insurance industries would need to adapt for these future outcomes, according to the findings.

Liberty group executive for retail solutions David Jewell said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is resulting in significant damage to the economy and deep human cost in terms of loss of life and impact on physical and psychological wellbeing. In this time of disruption it is pivotal for us to deliver on our promises and meet our clients in their moments of greatest human vulnerability.

“While there is much uncertainty concerning the long-term health consequences of the virus, it has left many people reassessing what is really important, and we believe it presents an opportunity for us to deliver certainty to them through solutions that meet their evolving needs.” 

Jewell said while they were not sure what the future held, the coronavirus carried with it an enormous amount of uncertainty for the lives of South Africans.

Dr Dominique Stott, chief medical officer at Liberty, said the biggest threat to health-care systems, and insurers, was hospital and ICU overload as the first wave of Covid-19 patients sought medical attention.

The virus was unpredictable because the medical fraternity was initially treating it as a respiratory condition, but later migrated it to a cardiovascular condition.

Short-term and long-term disability benefit claims were likely to increase for the 20% to 30% of infected people who required hospitalisation or ICU admission, said Stott.

“Life cover benefits are particularly important now that the mortality rate is increased. Studies have shown 80% of the deaths in SA were people over the age of 60. But death rates are also increased for those clients who have developed underlying high-risk diseases,” Stott said.

While there were still many unknown factors regarding the long-term health implications for Covid-19 survivors, there were already indications the disease could cause permanent organ damage, and possibly more requests for chronic care.

“Insuring one's health is critical, especially in light of the direct mental and physical health effects that could indirectly lead to yet another wave of medical sector issues. With elective surgeries likely to be deferred to prioritise more urgent treatments — such as chemotherapy and other cancer treatments — this could also lead to a general fear of health checks, meaning other illnesses could go undiagnosed,” cautioned Stott.

The report said people with chronic illnesses may skip their medication. During the pandemic, 13% of HIV patients had put their antiretroviral treatment on hold.

The United Nations was also concerned about children missing scheduled vaccinations because their parents were afraid to take them to a clinic, fearing they would contract the virus.