U.S. Life Expectancy Dropped Nearly 2 Years in 2020

It’s clear that 2020 was a terrible year for health in the U.S., but just how Now, terrible is in focus. The New Data on mortalityAccording to the National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy decreased by 1.8 years from 2019 to 2020. In addition, more than 528.800 additional Americans died in 2020 than they did in 2019. This is the highest single-year increase of annual mortality in a single year since 1983, the first time data was available for all 50 states.

This shift is primarily due to COVID-19. This virus was responsible for 10.4% of deaths in America last year, making it the third most common cause. The report does not reflect the impact of the pandemic on the U.S. health system. “The report card for the year was an F,” says Samuel Preston, professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences (who was not involved with the study). “It’s a very dismal portrait of what happened in the United States. What happened in America is much worse than that which happened in India. Other countries that are developed.”
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Death rates rose from various causes, including heart disease (up 4.1%), strokes (up 4.9%) and Alzheimer’s disease (up 8.7%) as COVID-19 stretched the entire health care system to its limit. Mark Hayward is a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a demographer. “They’re the kinds of deaths that are likely to occur because you can’t access hospitals or you can’t access care,” he says. “The overall consequence of COVID is broader than just COVID-related deaths. It’s because we can’t provide care to people with other conditions.”

Access problems during the pandemic were raised across the entire health system. Ambulances were bounced around One Intensive care unit for the overwhelmedTo another; short-staffed nursing homesThe deadly disease was difficult to control and hospitalizations were necessary. Non-emergency situations can be postponedTo cope with COVID-19 patient influx, surgeries were performed. Doctors might have recommended cholesterol-lowering medications during check-ups. These unprescribed drugs didn’t prevent heart attacks. Burnout and exhaustion are two other reasons that many care professionals have left their profession.

This high number is likely underestimated. Preston estimates that COVID-19 should have caused approximately 17% to 20% more deaths. Preston is currently studying COVID-19 mortality rates in 2020 as part of an academic collaboration with Boston University and the University of Pennsylvania. “We have concluded, as others have, that COVID itself was under-reported as a cause of death,” says Preston. “There are areas of the country where, compared to the changes in death rates overall, there are clearly insufficient numbers of deaths being assigned to COVID.” While undercounting was likely a bigger issue early in the pandemic, problems persisted, Preston says. It is more common for COVID-19 victims to be assigned to other causes in areas that have coroners, who are usually elected rather than medical examiners..

A second type of disease, drug-use disorders, also increased due to the pandemic. Recent government Don’t forget to enter the dataIt was found that more than 100,000 people overdosed between April 2020-2021. That’s the largest number of deaths from drugs in one year. This record high was at least partially the result of the pandemic, as the virus not only disrupted treatment programs and affected patients’ mental health, but likely accelerated the spread of the Dangerous synthetic opioid, Fentanyl. The new NCHS report includes overdoses in the unintentional injury category, which rose 16.8% over the previous year.

What’s also clear from the report is that while no part of American society was untouched by the pandemic, some groups experienced worse effects. The death rate rose for all age groups, white, black and Hispanic alike. Hispanic and non–Hispanic Black persons saw the death rate rise by especially steep amounts: 42.7% in Hispanic males, 32.4% in Hispanic females, 28% for Blackmen, 24.9% respectively, for 2020. The gap between men and women’s life expectancy also widened. Men’s life expectancy fell by 2.1 years, to age 74.2, and dropped 1.5 years to age 79.9 for women.

The racial disparities are likely due to the fact that more people of color are frontline workers who aren’t able to avoid being exposed to the virus, says Hayward, who studies Mortality and inequalityHis expectation is that there will be inequalities with more data. Across educational lines. “The college educated could work at home and avoid exposure,” says Hayward. “​​You’re going to see a very dramatic widening of educational differences in life expectancies…driven in part because of absolute decline in life expectancy among the most socially disadvantaged groups in this country.”


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