PerspectiveViewpoint: COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic and human fertility

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Science  24 Jul 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6502, pp. 370-371
DOI: 10.1126/science.abc9520

Summary

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic will have consequences for human populations. Worldwide, mortality levels are certainly affected. The worst-hit northern Italian provinces recorded losses of period life expectancy of 2 to 3.5 years for men and 1.1. to 2.5 years for women, the largest decline in life expectancy since the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic and World War II (1). Similar patterns follow in other countries (2). With the focus firmly on deaths, the scientific debate risks overlooking that population dynamics are also shaped by fertility trajectories. Throughout history, spikes in mortality owing to events such as wars, famines, and pandemics were followed by changes in fertility, resulting in fewer births in the short term and by recuperation in subsequent years (3). Economic and social change triggered by a pandemic is also likely to influence childbearing intentions and completed fertility. How the COVID-19 pandemic will affect fertility has implications for the rate of population aging, shaping future health challenges and economic growth potential across the globe.

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