Disease burden associated with Covid-19 in Sweden – QALYs lost due to excess mortality

Persson U, Olofsson S, Keel G

Sweden is among the countries with the highest COVID-19 death rates, as measured in terms of deaths with a COVID-19 diagnosis per million people. The number of cases, however, does not always serve as the best way to measure the burden of a disease as it does not take lost life-years, or the quality of life-years into consideration. Health economists therefore use the concept of Quality-Adjusted Life-Years (QALYs) to estimate the burden of diseases and injuries. The objective of this study is to estimate the disease burden of COVID-19 in Sweden in terms of QALYs lost during the first half of 2020.

The excess mortality during the first six months of 2020 was calculated and multiplied by the number of discounted QALYs lost. Excess mortality was calculated as the difference between observed mortality from the date of the first reported COVID-19 death (March,11) until June 30, 2020 compared to the average mortality for the same period in 2015-2019. The number of discounted QALYs lost was calculated using a standard approach, based upon national survival statistics, quality-of-life data from a previous study (IHE Report 2020:7), and a 3% discount rate.

The excess mortality during the first half year of 2020 was 5,310 deaths, which is consistent with the reporting from Folkhälsomyndigheten (5,467 deaths). Most deaths observed were among the elderly population, those 70 years or older. The excess mortality generated a total loss of 32,082 QALYs, which can be compared to the total QALY loss due to fatal road traffic accidents during an entire year (5,048 QALYs), due the last severe seasonal flue in 2018 (8,851 QALYs) and due to COVID-19 worry in April only (39,209 QALYs).

For questions please reach out to Research Manager Sara Olofsson 

Sara Olofsson participated in the webinar Quality of life in the Swedish population during the COVID-19 pandemic hosted by ISPOR Karolinska Institutet Chapter the 30 November 2020. ISPOR KI Chapter is part of the ISPOR Student Network and aim to spread knowledge about health economics and outcomes research.

Download the report

IHE Report 2020:8, Lund: IHE, Sweden, 2020