Life expectancy within the U.S. declined in 2020, particularly amongst individuals of colour
A woman looks at the “Naming the Lost Memorials,” as US deaths from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are expected to exceed 600,000, in Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, the United States, June 10, 2021 .
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
The Covid-19 pandemic cut average life expectancy in the United States by about a year and a half last year, which is the largest decline in a year since World War II, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the report released Wednesday by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, Americans are now expected to live an average of 77.3 years, compared with 78.8 years in 2019. Hispanics saw the sharpest decline in life expectancy last year, followed by black Americans.
“The decline in life expectancy between 2019 and 2020 is primarily due to deaths from the pandemic,” the report said. Covid deaths accounted for nearly 75% of the decline. More than 609,000 Americans have died in the pandemic to date, with around 375,000 of those people dying last year, according to the CDC.
About 11% of the decrease is due to an increase in deaths from accidents or accidental injuries. Drug overdose deaths, which increased by 30% during the pandemic, accounted for about a third of accidental injuries last year.
The life expectancy of American men decreased 1.8 years from 2019 to 2020, while the life expectancy of American women decreased 1.2 years from 2019.
“The difference in life expectancy between the sexes was 5.7 years in 2020, increasing from 5.1 in 2019,
read the report.
Hispanic Americans typically have longer life expectancies than non-Hispanic blacks or whites, but according to the report, Hispanic life expectancy declined more than any other ethnic group in the past year. The life expectancy of all Hispanics decreased by three years, from 81.8 years in 2019 to 78.8 years in 2020. Hispanic men suffered a decrease of 3.7 years in 2020.
“Covid-19 was responsible for 90% of the decline in life expectancy in the Hispanic population,” the report said.
The reduction in the life expectancy gap between white and Hispanic populations “is a clear indicator of the deterioration in the health and mortality results of a population that, paradoxically, before the Covid-19 pandemic was able to defy the expectations of its disadvantaged socio-economic profile “says the report.
Black Americans experienced the second largest decline in life expectancy, falling nearly 3 years from 74.7 years in 2019 to 71.8 years in 2020, its lowest level since 2000, the report said. Covid-19 was responsible for 59% of the decline in life expectancy among blacks.
Among white Americans, life expectancy fell 1.2 years in 2020, from 78.8 years in 2020 to 77.6 years, its lowest level since 2002. Covid-19 accounted for 68% of the decline in life expectancy among whites last year responsible.
Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death last year, and “the overall death rate was highest among non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic Native American or Alaskan people,” the CDC said in its preliminary mortality report in April.
The life expectancy of black Americans has consistently lagged whites, but the last time the life expectancy gap between blacks and whites was this large was in 1999, according to the report.
Other factors that contributed to the decline in life expectancy in 2020 are homicides, which accounted for 3% of the decline, and diabetes and chronic liver disease, which accounted for 2.5% and 2.3%, respectively.