Why has Italy been hit harder by the COVID-19 virus than other countries with over 2,500 death thus far? A recent study by the University of Oxford published in Demographic Science indicates that this may be because of significant differences in demographic composition, social connectedness and time of detection between countries. Mortality rates are dramatically higher in countries with older versus younger populations. With 23% of the population above 65, Italy has the 2nd oldest population in the world after Japan (28%). At the same time social interaction between generations is high, facilitating rapid transmission to high-risk groups. The FT reports that 66% between 18 and 34 was still living with their parents in 2018 (Eurostat) while both often meet and take care of their elders on a daily basis. Add to this the relative late detection in Italy of the spread of the virus compared with countries like Japan, Singapore and South-Korea to better understand differences in fatality rates across countries. It may also explain why countries with young age structures like India and in Africa ‘may be protective of severe and thus detectable cases". At the least, age structure and social mobility are important to take into account when fighting the virus.
Read more on Wired - Why the Coronavirus hit Italy so hard and the paper this article refers to Demographic science aids in understanding the spread and fatality rates of COVID-19 in Demographic Sience (March 14, 2020)