Life Expectancy in U.S. Dropped 1.5 Years in 2020, Largely From the Pandemic


According to federal figures, the 18-month drop was the biggest drop since World War II. Black and Hispanic Americans were disproportionately affected.

The coronavirus pandemic was responsible for reducing Americans’ life expectancy by a year and a half in 2020, the biggest drop in the United States since World War II, according to federal data released Wednesday.

An American child born today, if they lived their entire life hypothetically under the conditions of 2020, would be expected to live 77.3 years, down from 78.8 in 2019. This is the lowest life expectancy since 2003. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the agency that released figures and a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The tough year also deepened racial and ethnic inequalities in life expectancy, with black and Hispanic Americans losing nearly two years more than white Americans. Life expectancy for Hispanic Americans fell from 81.8 to 78.8, while that of Black Americans dropped from 74.7 to 71.8. The life expectancy of non-Hispanic white Americans dropped from 78.8 to 77.6.

The figures further added to the staggering toll of the pandemic, which has killed more than 600,000 Americans, as it has pushed the health system to its limits at times.

The purpose of measuring life expectancy is not to accurately predict actual life span; Rather, it is a measure of a population’s health, which reflects society-wide distress or progress. The sheer magnitude of the decline in 2020 has left researchers behind as it eroded decades of progress.

In recent decades, there was a steady increase in life expectancy in the United States until 2014, when an opioid epidemic took hold and such declines were rarely seen in developed countries. The decline was flat in 2018 and 2019.

The pandemic appears to have affected the opioid crisis as well. More than 40 states have reported an increase in opioid-related deaths since the pandemic began, According to the American Medical Association.

The sharp fall, largely due to COVID-19 in 2020, is unlikely to be permanent. In 1918, the flu pandemic wiped 11.8 years off Americans’ life expectancy, but the number returned completely the following year.

But even if deaths from COVID-19 fall, the economic and social impacts will remain, particularly among racial groups that were disproportionately affected, the researchers noted.

Although there have long been racial and ethnic disparities in life expectancy, this gap has been narrowing over the decades. In 1993, white Americans were expected to live 7.1 years longer than black Americans, but in 2019 the gap was narrowed to 4.1 years.

Covid-19 took much of that progress away: White Americans are now expected to live 5.8 years longer.

As before, a gender gap remains: the figures for women in the United States were expected to live 80.2 years, down from 81.4 in 2019, while men were expected to live 74.5 years, down from 76.3.

While the 1.5-year decline was mostly due to COVID-19, with a negative contribution of 74 per cent, there was also a small increase in unintentional injuries, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, homicide and diabetes.

As a minor silver lining, mortality is related to cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, heart disease, suicide and certain conditions arising in the perinatal period.

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