According to a government study set for publication on Wednesday, the United States’ life expectancy declined for the second year in a row in 2021, dropping by almost a year from 2020.
Three years have been slashed off the average American life expectancy in only two years of the COVID-19 epidemic. At the height of World War II in the early 1940s, there was a similar drop.
While new coronavirus variations generated waves of hospitalizations and fatalities in 2021, when immunizations were widely accessible, COVID-19 was attributed for nearly half the drop. Drug overdoses, heart disease, suicide, and chronic liver disease have all persisted for a long time, and each has contributed to the drop.
“It’s a sad state of affairs. “It was awful before, and now it’s much worse,” said Samuel Preston, a demographer from the University of Pennsylvania.
Given the current rate of mortality, how long a baby born in a certain year may be expected to live is known as that year’s life expectancy. According to Robert Hummer, a researcher at the University of North Carolina who studies trends in the health of populations, this is “the most basic indication of population health in our nation.”
For decades, life expectancy increased, but then stagnated just before the epidemic.
In 2019, she was 78 years and 10 months old. By the year 2020, it had plummeted to 77. It dropped to roughly 76 years and 1 month last year.
There hadn’t been a drop so severe since 1996.
Some racial groups had steeper declines and wider disparities than others during the epidemic. Life expectancy among Native Americans, for instance, has dropped by almost 6 1/2 years, to 65, since the start of the epidemic. The same time period also saw a decline of around two years in the life expectancy of Asian Americans, who now have an expected lifespan of 83 1/2 years.
Lack of access to adequate health care, lower vaccination rates, and a higher proportion of the population in low-paying occupations that necessitated people to stay working during the peak of the pandemic are all factors that may explain these variations, according to experts.
As such, the new study relies on preliminary information at best. The results of further research and analysis may alter previous projections of human lifespan. A decrease of around 1 year and 6 months in life expectancy by 2020 was previously predicted by the CDC. However, when additional data and reports on deaths came in, the actual duration was closer to 1 year and 10 months.
According to the CDC, the reductions in life expectancy in 2020 and 2021 will likely be the first two consecutive years of dropping life expectancy in the United States since the early 1960s.
The report includes the following findings:
- From little under 80 in 2020 to just over 79 in 2021, women’s life expectancy in the United States decreased by around 10 months. Male life expectancy decreased by one year, from about 75 to 73.
- The reduction was mostly due to fatalities from COVID-19. The second leading cause of mortality was unintentional harm, with 107,000 lives lost due mostly to drug overdoses in 2017.
- Life expectancy for whites fell by a year, to about 76 years and 5 months, the second largest decline among racial and ethnic groupings. African-Americans had the third-largest reduction, going from 78 years, 2 months to 70 years, 10 months.
- In the year 2020, the life expectancy of Hispanic Americans has dropped drastically, by four years. They used to have an expected lifespan of around 79 years, but that reduced to about 77 years and 7 months in 2021. It’s possible that the high vaccination rates among Hispanics were a contributing factor, according to Preston.
Gains in the fight against suicide are being eroded, according to the study.
There was an uptick in suicide rates in the United States from the early 2000s to 2018. But they started going down in 2019, the year before the epidemic began, and continued to drop in 2020. People tend to rally together and help one other out in the early phases of conflicts and national tragedies, and experts have pondered whether this had something to do with it.
The report said suicide contributed to the decline in life expectancy in 2021, but it did not provide detail. The number of suicides in the United States rose by around 2,000 to 48,000 in 2016, according to preliminary statistics from a public CDC database. The suicide rate increased from 13.5 per 100,000 to 14.1, which is almost the same as in 2018.