This is what it looks like. Men in England and Wales were 13 years, 12 months, 1.8 months, 15.3 months and 7.7 months younger than women in the years following the greatest known outbreak of the virus known as A/H1N1. The Guardian has the details in a long feature about the history of the crisis, which resulted in more than 80,000 flu deaths worldwide.
Two researchers, Christopher Maher of St. Thomas’ Hospital and George Richmond of the University of Warwick, modeled what would have happened if the epidemic had spread to Britain in the following years. Their calculations showed that the average life expectancy of men — the age at which those men die — would have dropped by a full year, from 67.4 to 63.7 years. For women, the average mortality rate would have risen from 69.1 to 79.9 percent. This is much more significant than previous flu epidemics, and the phenomenon was most pronounced in the states and Canada:
“Had we done this 15 years ago,” says Richmond, an epidemiologist, “it wouldn’t have had quite the same impact. In some respects, we’re just seeing the first generation who experienced the epidemic. By the time the next generation comes around, the epidemic will be history, and that will have had no impact on the adults they’re going to have to look up to for the rest of their lives.” Maher, a statistician and researcher in vaccine delivery systems, agreed: “The effects will certainly have started to wear off by the mid-90s, the point at which, from a public health perspective, most viruses are thought to have peaked. Even in the 12-to-18-year-old group, the biggest group to have been hit, we saw a 50 percent drop in mortality. So really, as a public health perspective, 15 years ago the entire problem had already been minimized.”
The flu epidemic was blamed for the British Royal Navy suspending operations to deal with its onslaught. But, as the Guardian points out, that definitely wasn’t the case. A report from the outbreak, made public in 1944, noted that officials aboard the HMS Winchester refused to go to sea unless the Royal Air Force stopped loading munitions for the German submarine U-33. When the RAF complied, the Royal Navy went to sea.