Yet life expectancy has not returned to 2019 levels in most of the countries where such statistics are available, the provincial agency says.

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Quebecers’ life expectancy has recovered from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the most recent statistics published by the Institut de la statistique du Québec (ISQ).

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The overall average life expectancy for Quebecers stood at 83 years in 2021 after having dropped to 82.3 years in 2020. In 2019 it was 82.9 years.

The ISQ noted that in 2021, the average life expectancy in Quebec was 81.1 years for men and 84.9 years for women. And contrary to what has been seen in Quebec, life expectancy levels for 2021 have not returned to 2019 levels in most of the countries where such statistics are available.

Prior to the pandemic, there was a slight slowdown in the growth of life expectancy in Quebec, although the phenomenon was more marked in the rest of Canada and even more so in the United States.

The ISQ reported that various authorities did not tally the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the same manner. The agency argues that the analysis of excess mortality is the best way to measure the public health consequences of the pandemic.

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The ISQ has established that the number of deaths normally expected versus those that were recorded shows a mortality increase of 4.5 per cent (6,400 deaths) in Quebec between the start of the pandemic in early March 2020 and March 12, 2022.

However the ISQ found that the excess mortality rate in the United States is higher than that of Quebec, while that in the rest of Canada, while initially lower than Quebec, has progressively increased and surpassed it in 2021.

Quebec public health director Luc Boileau said it is “impossible to determine with high probability that only 6,400 people died from COVID-19, whose death is directly related to the disease. It’s just the rate of excess deaths of 4.5 per cent that gives the 6,400 figure.”

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Boileau explained that 15,000 Quebecers did die of COVID-19 or with COVID-19, meaning the disease was present even if it wasn’t always the cause of death.

But he said the statistics show that while Quebec may have been behind the pack at the beginning of the pandemic with deaths in long-term care, “what we showed in Quebec is that mortality was better managed over the course of the pandemic until now than in other jurisdictions.”

He said it was the way services were organized, not luck, that caused Quebec to fare better.

Premier François Legault also attributed the statistics to the government’s performance. “What it means is that the measures we put in place in the last two years have had effects,” he said.

“Obviously, one death is one too many, but thanks to measures, thanks to masking, thanks to all the efforts done on vaccination, we find that Quebec has fewer deaths than the rest of Canada, than the United States, than the rest of the world.”

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Boileau also noted other factors that may have skewed the data, including the fact that influenza was virtually absent, held back by the same public health measures that slowed the spread of COVID-19. The flu normally kills about 360 people in Quebec every year, and can climb above 1,000 in bad years.

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