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Posts Tagged ‘trends’

Case Fatality Rates for COVID-19 are Now Decreasing Across the World

July 3, 2020 8 comments

Since I am feeling a bit lazy today, here is a quick post that is nonetheless quite interesting and topical. Many of you have might have heard about the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases in USA- especially on the lying corporate media. Well.. I noticed a trend too, and not just in USA. Have a look at the first figure and see if you can spot an interesting change in the trends for positive cases vs ICU admissions vs deaths due to COVID-19 in Sweden during past month. In case you can’t see the obvious, let me spell it out..

While Sweden has experienced a large increase in number of people testing positive for COVID-19, this increase has not translated into an increase in people admitted to ICU with COVID-19 or people dying from it. In fact the number of people dying from COVID-19 has gone down a lot in the past month despite a large increase in number of diagnosed cases, to say nothing about undiagnosed cases. This is even more obvious when you compare those trends and figures to what was happening 2-3 months ago.

Clearly, something big has changed. Perhaps we are testing for it more widely, the median age of cases is lower, maybe our symptomatic treatment regimes have gotten better or the virus have mutated into a less lethal version. It could also be a combination. But whichever way you look at it, the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) for COVID-19 has dropped considerably over past month in that country. And yes.. I did factor in the 1-2 week lag between diagnosis and adverse outcomes.

Moving on to this country, we see a similar trend. While there has been a huge spike in number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 over past few weeks, number of people admitted to hospital (most are not in ICUs) has increased very modestly while number of deaths keep on declining. Once again, a number of things might have changed- lower median age of cases, better medical management, newer virus strains being less lethal etc. But once again, it is hard to ignore that the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) has COVID-19 has gone down considerably in past few months.

Of course, it always possible that the real Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) for COVID-19 was always much lower than what discredited institutions such as CDC and FDA were pretending.

BTW, Case Fatality Rate (CFR) = percentage of people who die due to diagnosed cases of an infection while Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) = percentage who die in all people with that infection- both clinical and subclinical. IFR rates are often calculated after CFR rates as they are based on retrospective analysis of samples and data.

What do you think? Comments?

Quick Method for Determining the Demographic Destiny of Any Group

May 27, 2020 26 comments

Here is one of those posts which I started writing years ago but did not finish till today, because it was.. well.. so short. Yes, one of the two reasons I kept delaying its publication was my inability to find something extra or deeply significant about the basic concept. The other being that this post will almost certainly attract some traditional and socially CONservative types- a group that I don’t care about.. to put it mildly.

So without further ado, here is how you determine whether any group (racial, ethnic, economic, religious etc) will grow or shrink in the near future. Ready.. if the median age of first birth in women of said group is under 26, then it has a bright demographic future. If the median age of first birth in women is over 28, that group is headed for a rapidly shrinking demographic future.

But wait.. there is more. The father’s age is equally important. Groups where the father’s age at time of birth of his first child is under 30 are expanding. Conversely, groups where the father’s age at time of first child’s birth is over 30 are aging and contracting. The above two observations hold regardless of factors such as historical era, race, ethnicity, religion, culture etc.

Confused? Let me explain the concept with a few examples and also tell you how I first stumbled on this observation. Looking back at my ancestors, I realized something peculiar about changes in number of children per woman. While both sides of my family tree were always well off, the number of kids per women (fertility rate) dropped sharply after the 1940s. This occurred irrespective of level of education for women or whether they had jobs outside the house.

The point I am trying to make is that the drop in fertility had nothing to do with ability to afford having more kids. Sure.. medical developments after 1940 ensured that almost all kids born to parents who can afford them will live to adulthood and beyond. But then again, the majority of kids born to my ancestors in previous eras made it to adulthood.. so survival of genetic legacy was unlikely to be a consideration.

So what was going on? Well.. while overhearing conversations among the older members of my family I realized that around that time, the average age of marriage of women went up rather steeply- from late teens to early 20s. We can certainly debate the social, economic and cultural shifts which caused that change- but it does not matter, because the outcome does not change. Years later, I noticed a very similar pattern when looking at chronological demographic data for countries such as UK and France.

By then, I had also noticed something else. The median number of children per woman drops below 2 once the age of having first child for women exceeded 28. Also, this observation holds regardless of country or social class. While this shift first occurred in the more “educated” and moneyed classes of every country, it has since spread much further- especially in westernized countries. The most curious part of this shift is that it has little to do with ability to financially support more children. And it gets even weirder..

While some of you might think that the correlation of male age at birth of first child with fertility rates is simply an artifact of men being a few years older than women in most marriages or relationships, it is a much more complicated than that. See.. men who haven’t had kids by 30 are much less likely to seek relationships where they want to have them. Moreover, even if they have kids after 30, it is seldom more than two- and usually one or one.

Now I am sure some of you will tell me about counterexamples they know in person. To that I say.. sure.. but I am talking about the correlation of parental age with average and median number of children. I am sure that somebody like a sports star, famous rapper, movie celebrity or somebody that is very interested in having many kids might have more. But they are the minority and face it.. very few people have a half-dozen or more kids.

To summarize, the total number of kids a woman has starts dropping sharply once her age at birth of first child is over 22, approaches replacement (IFR ~ 2) if her age is between 24-26 and goes below replacement (IFR < 2) once her age exceeds 28. As far as men are concerned, those who haven't become first-time fathers by 30 are unlikely to have more than two- usually one or zero. This occurs regardless of their financial ability to support more children.

I am sure that many of you will have a lot to say about my observations and potential reasons behind these socio-economic-cultural shifts.

What do you think? Comments?

People Age Slower Today Than They Did 50 Years Ago: Nov 19, 2017

November 19, 2017 5 comments

As I once mentioned in an older post, one of my favorite pastimes involving searching for photos and videos for anything which might catch my fancy. Because of this habit, I have spent many thousands of hours learning about stuff which I would not have otherwise encountered. A side effect of this habit is the ability to discern patterns of human activity and behavior that are not otherwise not readily obvious- including insights into what people are thinking.

For example, no west-european backpackers trip to India is complete without dozens of photos of garbage, stray cows and beggars. What makes this a bit odd is that it is obvious that they went to considerable lengths to find the right spot and angle to take those photos. So why go to such lengths just to get those photos? Especially when they take care to not take or post such photos from their trips to African countries.

But this post isn’t about insights gleaned from looking at a shitload of photos from white west-european backpackers. It is about something far more substantive and supported by other independent lines of evidence. I am sure that many of you might have also noticed that people look younger in photos from the last 15 (or so) years than their similarly aged counterparts from 50 or even 30 years ago. Why is that so? And, is this effect illusory or real?

I first noticed this effect when looking at unretouched photos of famous older actors and musicians taken when they were much younger (often in their late teens, 20s or 30s). In almost every single case, celebrities who were in that age group during the 1960s-1980s timespan looked about a decade older than their equivalents today. Initially, I thought that it might be linked to how people dressed or styled their hair during that era as compared to today.

However this effect is also apparent, to the same extent, in photos of non-celebrities from that era. While certain styles of dress and makeup do accentuate it, it is hard to deny that people born after 1970 do look about a decade younger at the same chronological age as their parents. I mean, it is obvious when I look at photos of my parents and their cousins versus myself and my cousins. But is that enough to make the case that people age about a decade slower than 50 or even 30 years ago?

For this, we have to start looking at the incidence of aging-related diseases- specifically outcomes rather than by some vague criteria as defined by “experts”. We can also look at career longevity of athletes in physically demanding sports at international levels. While I do not have the time or motivation to post the statistics, it is clear that the careers of athletes in a range of sports such as basketball, tennis and swimming are noticeably longer than in the past.

While some of this increase can be attributed to improvements in sports medicine, the effect is spread across a wide number of sports rather than being concentrated in those which provide huge monetary rewards to players. So clearly, something else is at work. And coming back to the issue of aging-related diseases in non-athletes, they too tend to be noticeably lower in the younger cohort than their parent’s generation at the same age. Is it just a “healthier” lifestyle or something else?

While people will try to make the case that it is about a “healthier lifestyle” or “healthier choices”, I think it has something to do with the lack of certain things rather than following any guidelines. For example- the rates of cigarette smoking, exposure to lead and other heavy metals, exposure to other hazardous chemicals, poor working conditions etc are far lower for those born after 1970 than those born before that date. The same is true of many other sources of chronic stress such as extreme poverty, periods of material deprivation etc.

Maybe part of aging is due to chronic exposure to adverse conditions and less than optimal nutrition and medical care. Note that I am not claiming that aging is mostly due to external factors- but it is pretty clear to me that a decade or two of supposedly “normal” aging comes down to less than optimal living conditions. This is especially obvious when you compare people who are biologically related but then end up living in different countries and environments.

There is also the other issue of jobs becoming less physically demanding and damaging over that time period. We cannot also forget that women who have few or no kids tend to age at a noticeably slower rate than those with many kids. But my general observation and theory still holds. The slower aging of people born after 1970 is real and has something to do with experiencing significantly fewer stressors and noxious insults to their body in comparison to previous generations.

What do they think? Comments?