The first things that strike one as direct results of the specifics of the coronavirus are demand for a new model of medicine and demand for a new model of aging. A pandemic not only exposes weaknesses in health care systems and tests their ability to deal quickly with emergencies. The high mortality rate among people with coronavirus from complications associated with a variety of chronic diseases casts doubt on the effectiveness of the models for increasing life expectancy which prevailed at the end of the 20th century. In the current environment, it is no longer enough to prolong the lives of people with worsening health problems. It is important to learn how to postpone the onset of these diseases and maintain the health of citizens to the oldest possible age. Therefore, anti-aging medicine that appeared less than three decades ago, which is involved in the identification, prevention and correction of age-dependent diseases, will receive a powerful impetus for development.
It is important to emphasise that life extension is not alone in this respect and not merely the reserve of high medical technology and expensive services available to the elite. Studies show that lifestyle also contributes significantly: nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress levels, etc. And this opens up great opportunities for the state and non-state players to promote a healthy lifestyle and the concept of healthy longevity.
The second and perhaps most important issue that this pandemic has exposed is the high social cost of inequality. It would seem that in the face of the virus, everything would be equal, which is confirmed by cases among politicians, famous actors, athletes, show business personalities and other elite segments of society. However, these are exceptions that do not change the general rule: the risks of contracting infection, not receiving proper treatment on time, and dying are obviously higher in the lower strata of society. The higher the level of income and property inequality in the country, and the more selective the coverage of social programmes is there, the more likely it becomes that these differences will be more pronounced, as evidenced, for example, by the latest data from the United States.
There are several reasons for this. First, high economic inequality is usually accompanied by significant inequalities in health and life expectancy; it means that at the same age, there will be more chronic diseases among people with a low social status. Second, representatives of the lower social strata are often employed in the service sector and personal services: they work in catering, the trades, as couriers, taxi drivers, housekeepers, carers, nannies, etc. And, therefore, during the period of the epidemic, they either continue to work, exposing themselves to a high risk of infection, or have lost their only source of income. Since their work is often carried out informally, the availability of medical services and social benefits for them largely depends on how much the state is ready to notice them. The quality of life during the period of quarantine measures is incomparably higher in the upper social groups, where one finds spacious housing, “rainy day” savings, and the possibility of remote employment. It can be assumed that in the upper strata of society, the elderly will not end up in those nursing homes which face mass infections, where old people are dying off – as evidenced by data from France, Spain and Italy.
Ultimately, a society that allows such high degrees of inequality is likely to pay a higher price for overcoming the crisis generated by the pandemic. It experiences a large number of deaths, there’s a greater risk that many citizens will be left impoverished, and the resulting economic crisis will be deeper.