WASHINGTON — Federal data released Wednesday confirmed that average life expectancy in the United States decreased by a year and a half in 2020, driven primarily by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decline represents the largest single-year life expectancy reduction since World War II and reflects clearly the coronavirus’ disproportionate impact on communities of color, The Washington Post reported.
“It’s not entirely unexpected given what we have already seen about mortality rates as the year went on, but that still doesn’t stop it from being just horrific, especially for non-Hispanic Blacks and for Hispanics,” Anne Case, a professor emeritus of economics and public affairs at Princeton University, told the outlet.
Specifically, the figures released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that Black Americans lost 2.9 years of life expectancy in 2020, while Latinos saw a three-year plunge. The life-expectancy decrease among whites was only 1.2 years.
According to the report, issued 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, and “can primarily be attributed to deaths from the pandemic.”
With more than 609,000 U.S. deaths attributed to the pandemic to date, and roughly 375,000 of those fatalities recorded in 2020, COVID-19 deaths accounted for nearly 75% of the year-over-year life expectancy decrease, the CDC reported.
Meanwhile, an estimated 11% of the 2020 decline stemmed from an uptick in accidents or unintentional injuries, CNBC reported, noting that drug overdose deaths spiked 30% during the pandemic and accounted for about one-third of unintentional 2020 injuries.
“There are other festering problems going on here,” Case told the Post. “The one that’s most obvious would be the drug overdose epidemic that continues to blaze.”
The report also indicated that year-over-year life expectancy among American males decreased by 1.8 years, compared with only 1.2 years for American women, bumping the life expectancy gap between the sexes from 5.1 years in 2019 to 5.7 years in 2020.
Other factors contributing to the 2020 life expectancy decline included homicides, which accounted for 3% of the decline, as well as diabetes at 2.5% and chronic liver disease at 2.3%, CNBC reported.
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