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US life expectancy plummeting — Analysis

According to the CDC, Americans live an average of a shorter life span than in 1996.

The average American’s life expectancy notably dropped between 2019 and 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed in a report published on Wednesday. This marks the first recorded two-year decrease since 1961-1963.

Over the last two years, the US life expectancy decreased by 2.7 years, leaving the average lifespan at 76.1 years – the same as it was in 1996. The CDC states that the Covid-19 epidemic, which led to over 1 million deaths, was the main factor responsible for the decline in life expectancy. “Accidental injury” – a category that includes overdoses and other drug-related misadventures – as well as heart disease were also major factors contributing to the decline. Prior to the outbreak, heart disease was still the leading cause of death in the US. But, the opioid epidemic led to an increase in overdoses that has continued for many years.




Breaking the CDC’s numbers down by race yields even more alarming trends. The life expectancy of Native Americans dropped by 6.6 years between 2019-2021. That’s compared with the average drop of four years for Hispanic and black people, and just 2.4 years for white folks. Statistics show that males have suffered adisproportionately high mortality rate, with a life expectancy of 73.2 years falling, and females living to a relatively long 79.1years. 

This report showed that the largest decline in life expectancy occurred in the first year following the pandemic. However, white Americans saw the most severe losses during the second. 

Similar research has shown that Covid-19 increased the gap in life expectancy between America, the country with the highest healthcare costs in the world and the rest of the developed countries. Americans are now living five years longer than their European counterparts. 

Researchers studying the decline in life expectancy have blamed high rates of preexisting conditions like obesity and heart disease for the US’ outsized losses during the pandemic compared to 19 of its economic peers.

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