Two Years Of Covid Caused The Steepest Drop In U.S. Life Expectancy In Nearly 100 Years, CDC Data Reveals

Topline

Life expectancy in the U.S. dropped for the second consecutive year in 2021—largely fueled by the Covid-19 pandemic—according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday.

Key Facts

According to data published by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), life expectancy at birth in the U.S. dropped to 76.1 years in 2021—the lowest it has been since 1996—from 77 years in 2020.

The two pandemic years have caused life expectancy in the country to drop by 2.7 years—which according to Reuters is the steepest two-year decline in nearly 100 years.

Despite vaccines being widely available for most of 2021, Covid-19 accounted for nearly half of the decline last year, followed by unintentional injuries (which includes drug overdoses), heart disease and chronic liver diseases.

After dropping out of the top ten leading causes of death in 2020, suicides were among the top five contributors to the decline in life expectancy last year.

The 2021 numbers also show a widened gap between men and women with the life expectancy of men dropping by a year to 73.2 while the same for women declined by 10 months to 79.1 years.

Statewise, life expectancy data from 2020, released by the CDC earlier this week showed that Hawaii had the highest life expectancy at 80.7 years followed by Washington, Minnesota, California and Massachusetts, while Mississippi had the worst life expectancy in 2020 at only 71.9 years.

Big Number

109,000. That’s the total number of people who died in 2021 due to drug overdoses, a record for a single year.

Key Background

Among various ethnic groups, life expectancy among American Indian and Alaskan Native people saw a 2.5-year decline in 2021 and cumulatively dropped by a staggering 6.5 years since 2020. The average life expectancy for the group now stands at only 65.2 years—which CNN notes was the average life expectancy of an American back in 1944. White Americans saw the second highest decline with their average life expectancy falling by one year to 76.4 years. Last year, White Americans had seen the smallest decline in life expectancy, while Black and Hispanic Americans were severely hit by the pandemic. In 2021, Black and Hispanic Americans experienced a much smaller decline. White Americans now trail both Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans when it comes to Covid-19 vaccine uptake, according to the CDC’s tracker.

News Peg

Data published last year showed the rest of the world has also seen declines in life expectancy due to Covid-19. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford, the pandemic in 2020 caused the steepest decline in global life expectancy since World War II. The study noted that Americans were the worst hit by this drop while some countries like Denmark and Norway did not see a decline at all.

Further Reading

COVID drives down U.S. life expectancy for the second straight year – CDC data (Reuters)

Life expectancy dropped in 2020 in every US state, mainly due to COVID: CDC (ABC News)

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