Covid Brings Down US Life Expectancy For Second Consecutive Year

Covid Brings Down US Life Expectancy For Second Consecutive Year

The average life expectancy in the United States decreased in 2021 for the second time in a row, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The overall decrease in 2020 and 2021 was the sharpest two-year decline in nearly 100 years. 

The Covid-19 pandemic played a major role in the decline. According to a report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy at birth in the US fell to its lowest level since 1996 last year. 

In 2020, the life expectancy at birth in the US was 77 years, and in 2021, the value was 76.1 years, a report by US News said. 

Life Expectancy Decreased By Three Years From 2019 To 2021

Federal health researchers said Wednesday that in 2021, the average American could expect to live until the age of 76, according to a report by the New York Times (NYT). In 2021, the average life expectancy decreased by three years since 2019, when Americans had an average life expectancy of 79 years.

Decline In Life Expectancy Steep Among Native Americans And Alaska Natives

According to the report by the National Center for Health Statistics, the decline in life expectancy has been steep among Native Americans and Alaska Natives. In 2020, the average life expectancy in Native Americans and Alaska Natives was shortened by four years. 

In 2021, the life expectancy of Native Americans declined to 65, which is the age of eligibility for Medicare, according to a report by The Washington Post. In a single year, the life expectancy of Native Americans shortened by nearly two years. 

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White people, who lost a full year of life expectancy from 2020 to 2021, witnessed the second-biggest drop. Black people lost 0.7 years of life expectancy from 2020 to 2021. 

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the cumulative decline in life expectancy of Native Americans and Alaska Natives has been more than six and a half years on average. As a result, the life expectancy of Native Americans and Alaska Natives has come down to 65.

Black Americans saw greater reductions in life expectancy in the first year of the pandemic compared to white Americans, the NYT report said. 

From 2019 To 2020, US Witnessed Largest One-Year Drop In Life Expectancy Since WW2

According to the US News report, the year-over-year decline is the second in a row. Life expectancy declined from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77 years in 2020. This was the largest one-year drop in life expectancy witnessed by the US since World War II. 

The report also said that US life expectancy has decreased by more than three per cent since 2019. Covid-19 deaths can be attributed to nearly 74 per cent of the decline in life expectancy from 2019 to 2020, and nearly 50 per cent of the drop from 2020 to 2021.

Factors That Contributed To The Decline In US Life Expectancy

Increased fatalities from unintentional injuries or accidents accounted for 16 per cent of the decline in life expectancy from 2020 to 2021. In a statement released by the CDC, officials said that drug overdoses accounted for roughly half of deaths from unintentional injury. 

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Over the 12-month period ending March this year, more than 1,04,500 overdose deaths have been reported, according to data provided by the National Center for Health Statistics. 

Increases in mortality tied to heart disease, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, and suicide are some of the other causes of death contributing to the decline in life expectancy in 2021, the US News report said.

What Happened To The Gap In Life Expectancy Between Men And Women In 2021?

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the gap in life expectancy between women and men widened in 2021 to 5.9 years. In 2020, the gap in life expectancy between men and women was 5.7 years. 

Last year, the life expectancy at birth among males was 73.2 years. There was a one-year decline in life expectancy from 2020. Meanwhile, female life expectancy witnessed a 0.8-year decline from 2020 to 2021, when the value was 79.1.

Role Of Covid-19 Pandemic In The ‘Historic’ Decline

According to the US News report, there has been a shift in the disparate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on communities of colour. From 2019 to 2020, white Americans experienced a decline of 1.4 years in life expectancy, Black Americans saw a decrease of more than three years in life expectancy, and the Hispanic population witnessed a drop in four years of life expectancy.

However, in 2021, the decline in life expectancy among white Americans was greater than the drops in life expectancy for Black Americans and Hispanics. 

According to the NYT report, Dr Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, termed the decline in life expectancy in the US “historic”. 

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Why Were Native Americans And Alaska Natives More Vulnerable To Coronavirus?

Dr Ann Bullock, former director of diabetes treatment and prevention at the federal Indian Health Service agency, said Native Americans and Alaska Natives were vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 due to health problems rooted in poverty and discrimination, and poor access to healthcare. 

Native Americans and Alaska Natives have the highest rate (one in seven) of diabetes among racial and ethnic groups in the US. Also, many Native Americans and Alaska Natives suffer from obesity or have excess weight. These conditions make people more susceptible to Covid-19. 

Dr Woolf said Americans suffer from “the US health disadvantage”, an amalgam of influences that erode well-being. These influences include a profit-driven healthcare system, poor diet, lack of physical activity, risk factors such as smoking, poverty, pollution, and widespread access to guns. Racism and segregation make these problems manifold for marginalised groups. 

As a result, there has been a high disease burden among Americans, and a shorter life expectancy compared with the life expectancy in comparable high-income nations over the last two decades, Dr Woolf said.

Covid-19 has claimed more than a million American lives. Despite the availability of vaccines, more Americans died in 2021 than in 2020.

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