Size of the Economy, Median Age and HDI determine the spread and treatment of COVID -19

COVID-19 has been one of the severest pandemic the world has ever faced. Over 3.2 million people all across the world has been affected by this pandemic with over two lakh deaths by now. The spread of this disease has been all across the globe. But there has been varying degrees of spread across the countries. Moreover different countries have varying degrees of tests done and varying degrees of mortality and recovery rate. It is important to examine in this context what are the driving factors of the spread and treatment outcome of COVID-19.

IPD has examined this in the context of Indian states and found out that while the size of the state economy (measured by GDP) determines the spread of the virus, states with higher human development index, have a better recovery rates and has conducted more tests per 1 million population. Does the same pattern holds across different countries in the world? In this article, IPD focuses into what are the factors that determine the spread and treatment of this deadly disease. For this analysis, the top 75 countries with COVID-19 cases has been considered.


Data Source: IMF and

Like the scenario with Indian states, it is seen that countries with higher GDP, has more prevalence of COVID-19 cases in the country. Higher GDP implies higher economic activity and more international travels leading to higher number of COVID cases in the country. United states which has the highest GDP among all the countries also has the highest number of COVID cases in the world. When we focus into GDP per capita, it is seen while the positive trend exists with higher the GDP per capita, higher the number of COVID cases in the country, the correlation has been much less. The correlation of GDP per capita with prevelance of COVID cases is around 32%. Seven of the top ten countries in terms of economic size (GDP) are in the top 10 countries with most COVID spread.

Along with the size of the economy, median age also has been a prime factor in determining the spread of the corona virus. It is seen that higher the median age of the country, higher is the number of COVID cases in the country. It has been widely said that people with co morbid disease are more susceptible to suffering from COVID-19. Higher the age, higher is the chance of having more co morbidity. Hence median age has been one of the important factors in determining the spread of the virus. Three of the top ten countries in terms of median age has been in the top 5 countries with most COVID spreads.


Data source: UNDP, IMF and

It has been widely acknowledged that testing is a primary way to handle this pandemic. World Health Organization had mentioned that only prescription for this is to test test and test. The countries which have conducted more tests per one million population have been able to at least detect all the people suffering from this and are in a better position than countries which have conducted lesser tests.

It is seen that higher the Human development Index of the country, higher is the number of tests per million population in that country. Similar trend has been seen in case of Indian states also. GDP on the other hand has a very low correlation with number of tests conducted per one million population. Higher HDI in a way means better health outcome suggesting of better health infrastructure available in the country. Better the health infrastructure higher is the capability of conducting more tests.

It is also seen the countries with higher median age has higher number of tests conducted. This is again driven by the fact that older age people have higher risk of having COVID and hence countries with more higher age population conduct more tests.

Recovery and Mortality

Data Source: UNDP and

Mortality rate for a country is a measure of the proportion of total number of deaths out of total number of COVID cases in the country while recovery rate for a country measures the proportion of recovered cases out of the total number of completed ( recovered + death) cases in the country.

It is seen that higher the median age of the country, higher is the mortality rate of the country. Older people have a higher death rates. Italy which has the third highest median age in the world has seen a very high mortality rate of over 10%.

In the context of Indian states it was seen that higher the HDI of the state lower is the mortality rate of the state. HDI is seen have a high correlation with recovery rate for the top 75 countries in the world. In terms of mortality rate, we see that the impact of HDI on mortality rate varied across median age groups.

Data Source: UNDP and

For the countries with median age of less than 40 years and greater than 45 years , it is seen that HDI has a strong negative correlation with mortality rate. The only exception is the countries in the 40-45 years age group. Higher HDI implies better health outcome and hence we see a higher recovery rate and a lower mortality rate. There is a very low correlation between GDP and recovery rate. Thus size of the economy does not really impact the health outcome.


So it can be seen that in terms of tests and treatment outcome, HDI and median age are the main factors which determine the performance of the countries while size of the economy determines the extent of spread of the virus. The pattern which we had seen for the Indian states, holds true in the global context also. This clearly indicates the need of more focus on human development with government involvement in ensuring better health infrastructure.

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