Life Expectancy Drops in America Due to COVID-19

Life expectancy
Courtesy of David(Flickr CC0)

In 2021 the life expectancy dropped, for the second year in a row, it has been the lowest since 1996. This is the first time that the life expectancy dropped two years in a row in 100 years.

People born in the U.S. had a life expectancy of 79 years. In 2020, due to the pandemic, life expectancy dropped down to 77 years. In 2021, once again,  the life span dropped to 76.1 years. According to a provisional analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for some Americans, the life expectancy is much lower.

Over 1 million Americans have their cause of death listed as COVID-19, according to the latest data gathered by the agency. The second biggest overall reason for the worsening estimate was “Unintentional injuries”, driving 15.9% of the decline. Those “were largely driven by drug overdose,” the report’s authors wrote. COVID-19 was linked with more than 460,000 United States deaths in 2021, according to the CDC.

“The results of this study are looking to be very disturbing,” says Dr. Steven Woolf, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. “This shows us that U.S. life expectancy in 2021 was even lower than in 2020,” he says. Other countries that  have high income have seen a rebound in life expectancy, Woolf says that it makes the U.S. results “all the more tragic.”

In 2021 one of the most substantial drops that occurred in the life expectancy was taking place among Alaska Native and Indian people. In 2019 – 2021, the life expectancy for this specific group of people dropped by 6.6 years, going down to a tremendous 65.2. The life expectancy for this specific group of people is now equivalent to the whole in the 1940s.

All of all the racial groups, Asian Americans saw the smallest decline in their life expectancy last year, they only lost 0.1 years in 2021, going down to 83.5 years. The life expectancy advantage between Black and white Americans went down by 5.1% from 2020, with only 5.6 years separating the two groups.

For the Hispanic population in the United States, the estimate dropped by 0.2 years down to 77.7, which the report showed to be lower than in 2006, at 80.3 years, when life expectancy rates for people who identified as Hispanic were first documented.

In 1993, Black Americans had a life expectancy that was 7.1 years worse than white Americans. By 2019, a year before the pandemic, that gap had gone down to 4 years.

Life expectancy
Courtesy of 7C0 (Flickr CC0)

Last year there were other gaps that have since gotten bigger.

The report found that the difference in life expectancy between men and women rose from 5.7 to all the way up to 5.9 years in 2021. This gap between men and women had fallen to just 4.8 years in 2010.

The estimates show that one of the earliest looks into the impact of the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic on the American life expectancy. More detailed breakdowns and figures for 2021 are expected over the next few coming months.

In particular, last week the agency released the final estimates broken down by state for 2020, which showed life expectancy in the first year of the pandemic drop in every state and in the District of Columbia.

The report comes as federal health officials say they are preparing for another possible deadly wave of infections this winter.

Ever since mid-April, the U.S. has averaged between 300 and 400 daily deaths due to COVID-19, according to CDC data. This is around close to twice the lowest levels seen during June and July of 2021.

Nevertheless, the speed of the new COVID-19 deaths currently remains only a fraction of last year’s winter and fall waves. It is believed that the soon-to-come rollout of new COVID-19 booster shots could help prevent thousands of COVID-19 deaths over the coming months

Written By Lance Santoyo
Edited Sheena Robertson


CBS News: U.S. life expectancy drops again, marking worst 2-year decline in a century

Yahoo News: U.S. life expectancy fell further in 2021 due to COVID

People: U.S. Life Expectancy Falls for Second Year in a Row, Marking Worst 2-Year Drop in a Century

NPR: Life expectancy in the U.S. continues to drop, driven by COVID-19

Featured Image Courtesy of David‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Inset Image Courtesy of 7C0‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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