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U.S. Life Expectancy Rate Drops to Its Lowest Since WWII Due to COVID, Overdose Deaths

U.S. Life Expectancy Rate Drops to Its Lowest Since WWII Due to COVID, Overdose Deaths

Life expectancy in the U.S. plunged last year in the largest one-year drop since World War II, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Wednesday, further widening the longevity gap between the U.S. and comparable countries.

Deaths from Covid-19 and drug overdoses fueled the decline — wiping out any improvements the country made in decreasing deaths from cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases — leading to a 1.5-year drop and bringing the life expectancy at birth down to 77.3 years. (Life expectancy at birth refers to how long a person born in the year being studied — in this case, 2020 — is expected to live.)

The decline, which was reported by provisional models last month, spotlights the country’s system of poor health, experts said.

Deaths from Covid-19 caused almost 75 percent of the reduction in life expectancy on average. But the disease was responsible for 90 percent of the drop in life expectancy among Hispanic Americans, compared to 68 percent in white Americans and almost 60 percent in Black Americans.


The life expectancy advantage among Hispanic Americans compared to white Americans more than halved — from 3 years in 2019 to 1.2 years in 2020, bringing Hispanic Americans’ current life expectancy to 78.8 years. Life expectancy for Black Americans declined by almost 3 years, to 71.8 years, the youngest age for the population since 2000; the decline was nearly 2.5 times the decline among white Americans, whose life expectancy fell to 77.6 years. Data were unavailable for other races and ethnicities.

The report also highlighted an increase in homicides and diabetes, which together accounted for about 5.5 percent of the decrease in life expectancy. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis — which hint at an increase in alcohol abuse, Woolf said — accounted for nearly 2.5 percent of the decrease.

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