The number of Italians infected with COVID-19 is approaching 60,000 and 5,476 people had died due to the illness as of March 23 at 10:00am CET. Saturday's death toll of 793 was particularly shocking and health officials expressed cautious hope when the number declined to a still horrific 651 on Sunday. In a further potentially positive development, cases grew from 53,578 to 59,138, a 10.4 percent increase which is the lowest percentage increase since February 21.
The average age of those dying in Italy is 78.5 and the country's death toll has now surpassed China, despite the fact that it has fewer confirmed cases. There are various theories about why the disease is proving far deadlier for Italians and the most obvious one is that older people account for a greater share of the population. 23 percent of the Italian population is aged 65 or over and several studies have found that COVID-19 has the most severe impact on people in that age bracket.
It also has to be mentioned that young Italians interact with their parents and grandparents far more than young people in other countries. According to OECD data from 2014, 81 percent of Italians aged between 15 and 29 still lived at home that year. Given that many young people infected with COVID-19 display no symptons but are still contagious, Italian living arrangements may have had deadly consequences for the elderly.
The trend of young people living at home is similar across Southern Europe, particularly in Greece and Spain. It is a rarer phenonemon elsewhere, however, such as in Scandinavia. In 2014, only 35 percent of young Swedish people still lived with their parents. In the United States, the figure was higher at 67 percent.