Coronavirus has forced many of us to go scrambling back to the history books to see what lessons can be learnt from the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918-20. However, there is a striking way in which covid as a pandemic and longevity is historically unprecedented. As shown in Figure 1 in 2018, for the first time in history, the number of people alive over 65 was larger than the number under 5. Because the fatality rate from covid rises sharply with age, this has hugely important consequences for how the pandemic spreads, how many people will die and what the economic response should be. It genuinely is a case of ‘this time it’s different’.
- We have more older people than previous pandemics. Our demographics on ageing are completely different than ever before.
- Due to this demographic shift, we have more to gain from social distancing.
People are living for longer and, on average, in better health and so the VSL for each age is increasing.
- We need to value our older population and prevent intergenerational tensions.