Potential Years of Life Lost Due to COVID-19 in the United States, Italy, and Germany: An Old Formula with Newer Ideas

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jun 18;17(12):4392. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17124392.


Today, the world is facing the challenge of a major pandemic due to COVID-19, which has caused more than 6.1 million cases of infection and nearly 370,000 deaths so far. Most of the deaths from the disease are clustered in the older population, but the young and children are not spared. In this context, there is a critical need to revisit the formula for calculating potential years of life lost (PYLL). Data on age-specific deaths due to COVID-19 in three countries, including the United States (US), Italy, and Germany, were evaluated. New York State, as a significant outlier within the US, was also included. PYLLs in the US were five times as high as those of Italy. Compared with Germany, PYLLs in Italy were 4 times higher, and the rates in the US were 23, 25, and 18 times higher when using upper age limits of 70, 75, and 80, respectively. Standardized PYLLs in New York were 2 times as high as the rates in Italy, and 7 to 9 times as high as PYLLs in Germany. The revised formula of PYLL, using an upper limit of age 80, is recommended to accurately measure premature deaths due to a major disastrous disease such as COVID-19.

Keywords: COVID-19; Germany; Italy; New York State; PYLL; United States; disease burden.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / mortality*
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Life Expectancy
  • Mortality / trends*
  • Mortality, Premature*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / mortality*
  • United States / epidemiology