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Life Expectancy in the U.S. Has Reportedly Dropped By an Average of 1.5 Years, Mainly Due to the Pandemic

Life Expectancy in the U.S. Has Reportedly Dropped By an Average of 1.5 Years, Mainly Due to the Pandemic

The data, released by CDC, also sheds light on how the pandemic has disproportionately affected Hispanic and Black Americans, in the steepest decline in the United States since World War II.

With all the restrictions and work-from-homes being enforced due to the ongoing pandemic, it did seem like we were being robbed of our time to live life to the fullest, right? Apparently, the feeling that we're losing out on our years wasn't completely in our minds, because the overall life expectancy in the United States has fallen by a year and a half, according to The New York Times.

The fall is primarily due to the surge in deaths linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on July 21, 2021. This data also sheds light on how the pandemic has disproportionately affected Hispanic and Black Americans, in the steepest decline in the United States since World War II.

From 2019 to 2020, Hispanic people experienced a three-year drop in life expectancy, and Black Americans saw a decrease of 2.9 years. White people experienced the smallest decline, of 1.2 years. These numbers were released by the CDC as part of a provisional report on the shift in mortality it publishes each year, states HuffPost. “Mortality due to COVID-19 had, by far, the single greatest effect on the decline in life expectancy at birth between 2019 and 2020,” the report says.



 

Other causes contributing to the fall in life expectancy in 2020 include injuries, homicide, and diabetes, the report notes. The gap in life expectancy between men and women also increased in 2020, with women now expected to live 80.2 years, or 5.7 years longer than men - six months more than what figures showed in 2019.

The coronavirus “uncovered the deep racial and ethnic inequities in access to health, and I don’t think that we’ve ever overcome them,” said Dr. Mary T. Bassett, a former New York City health commissioner and professor of health and human rights at Harvard University. She said while these findings were devastating, they weren't surprising. “To think that we’ll just bounce back from them seems a bit wishful thinking.”

Dr. Elizabeth Arias, a researcher at the CDC who worked on the report, told Reuters that “life expectancy has been increasing gradually every year for the past several decades. The decline between 2019 and 2020 was so large that it took us back to the levels we were in 2003. Sort of like we lost a decade.”



 

However, the silver lining seems to be the fact that the drop in life expectancy is likely to not be permanent, given how 1918 wiped 11.8 years from Americans’ life expectancy, but the number completely rebounded the following year. But, Arias believes it'll take more time than a year because the numbers are unlikely to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon.

Returning the life expectancy numbers to those of 2019 would require having “no more excess death because of Covid, and that’s already not possible in 2021,” Arias said, adding that the effects of the pandemic on life expectancy of Black and Hispanic people could remain for years.

“If it was just the pandemic and we were able to take control of that and reduce the numbers of excess deaths, they may be able to gain some of the loss,” Arias said. However, there are chances of additional deaths emerging, since people have been missing out on regular doctor visits for other health conditions during the pandemic. “We may be seeing the indirect effects of the pandemic for some time to come,” she said.



 

References:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/21/us/american-life-expectancy-report.html

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsrr/VSRR015-508.pdf

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/us-life-expectancy-2020_n_60f7b765e4b0d1bafbf87ea4

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-life-expectancy-fell-year-half-2020-due-covid-19-cdc-2021-07-21/

Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Stefani Reynolds

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