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    Life expectancy in Québec returns to its pre-pandemic level and reaches 83 years in 2021

    Québec, May 3, 2022. – After a significant decline in 2020, the life expectancy of the Québec population reached 83.0 years in 2021. Life expectancy in Québec, which was 82.9 years in 2019, had dropped to 82.3 years in 2020. According to the mortality conditions in 2021, the average lifespan in Québec was 81.1 years for men and 84.9 years for women. These findings are among the many highlights included in the bulletin La mortalité et l’espérance de vie au Québec en 2021, published today by the Institut de la statistique du Québec.

    Contrary to what has been observed in Québec, life expectancy in 2021 has not returned to 2019 levels in most countries for which data are available. Before the pandemic, life expectancy growth had already slowed slightly in Québec, but the slowdown was more marked in the rest of Canada, and even more so in the United States. Québec’s advantage over its neighbours in terms of life expectancy has therefore increased in recent years. The gap between Québec and the United States, which was about 2 years in 2001, increased to 4 years in 2019, and widened further with the pandemic to 6 years less in the United States, according to preliminary estimates for 2021.

    4.5% excess mortality in Québec since the start of the pandemic

    Since different jurisdictions do not report COVID-19-related causes of death in the same way, analyzing excess mortality has emerged as the best approach to compare the health consequences of the pandemic. This approach, which consists in comparing the number of deaths normally expected with the number actually observed, shows that net excess mortality was 4.5% in Québec between the start of the pandemic and March 12, 2022, or about 6,400 more deaths than expected, all causes combined.

    This number of excess deaths is lower than the number of COVID-19-related deaths reported over the same period. This result can be explained in part by the fact that some COVID-19-related deaths were offset by a “harvesting effect” (displacement of certain deaths to 2020) and by the protective effect of certain health measures, which may have reduced mortality from other causes (e.g. influenza).

    Excess mortality generally higher elsewhere in the world

    Elsewhere in the world, a few countries have managed to avoid any excess mortality during the pandemic, but the majority of countries registered excess mortality and decreases in life expectancy. The pandemic is estimated to have caused between 14 and 24 million excess deaths worldwide since the start of the pandemic. The excess mortality rate was much higher in the United States than in Québec, while in the rest of Canada, it was initially lower than in Québec, but gradually moved closer to the rate in Québec and surpassed it in 2021.

    Cumulative excess mortality since March 2020, Québec and selected countries

    Cumulative excess mortality since March 2020, Québec and selected countries

    Note: Data up to March 12 or 13, 2022 for most regions, except Canada outside Québec (04-12-2021), Australia (30-01-2022), Italy (27-02-2022), and South Korea (06-03-2022).
    Compilation and calculations: Institut de la statistique du Québec.

    How should life expectancy be interpreted?

    Life expectancy in 2021 represents the average number of years a population could expect to live if they were subjected to the mortality conditions of 2021 for their entire lifetime. Life expectancy at birth for 2021 does not represent the actual average lifespan of children born in 2021, as that will depend on how mortality evolves in the future.

    To learn more

    A large number of data and analyses on deaths and mortality at the provincial level and on a smaller scale are available on the Institut’s website. Since January 2022, a new series of tables showing the weekly excess mortality in Québec, all causes combined, has been added to the one showing the weekly number of deaths. In addition to the total, results are broken down by sex, age group, and regional groupings. As for the Bilan démographique du Québec – Édition 2021, it presents an analysis of trends at the provincial level for a multitude of mortality-related indicators.

    The Institut de la statistique du Québec produces, analyzes and disseminates official, objective and quality statistical information on various aspects of Québec society. It is responsible for conducting all statistical surveys of general interest. The relevance of its work makes it a strategic ally for decision makers and all those wishing to learn more about Québec.

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