Pandemic causes largest drop in United States life expectancy since WWII

Cornelia Mascio
Febbraio 18, 2021

Life expectancy in men in the USA fell 1.2 years over the same period (from 76.3 to 75.1), while for women it declined just under a year (from 81.4 to 80.5), according to the report.

"Life expectancy at birth. may be underestimated since the populations more severely affected, Hispanic and non-Hispanic black populations, are more likely to live in urban areas", the report says. The CDC also notes "increases in provisional drug overdose deaths through early 2020".

Overall, the drop in life expectancy is more evidence of "our mishandling of the pandemic", Brawley said. Black men saw a three-year decline in life expectancy, while the gap between the sexes rose to 5.4 years, the most in more than two decades. Hispanic males also saw a large decrease in life expectancy, with a decline of 2.4 years.

Statistics show that Black and Hispanic people are contracting and dying of the virus at higher rates than other Americans, as the pandemic has further exacerbated inequalities that were already inherent in the USA health system. Black people now lag white people by six years in life expectancy, reversing a trend that had been narrowing the gap since 1993.

Life expectancy is how long a baby born today can expect to live, on average. Life expectancy changes dramatically by gender and race, according to health data.

The provisional estimates were calculated by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics using death records in the USA from January through June 2020.

Its authors point out a few limitations in these estimates.

In addition, an October 2020 study from Virginia Commonwealth and Yale universities found that almost 75,000 deaths were indirectly caused by the pandemic.

Another limitation is that the COVID-19 pandemic struck different parts of the U.S.at different times in the year.

Between 2019 and the first half of 2020, life expectancy decreased by 2.7 years from 74.7 years to 72.0 years - a level not seen since 2001.

The report parallels the findings published last month by researchers at the University of Southern California and Princeton University, which found that the deaths caused by COVID-19 have reduced overall life expectancy by 1.13 years.

"The disparities between those populations have been declining consistently, since we began estimating life expectancy, which goes back to 1900", she said.

Worldwide, the pandemic has infected more than 110 million people. The latest estimates from the University of Washington's Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation predict 614,503 US deaths by June 1.

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