Thu 23 July 2021:
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, life expectancy in the United States fell for the first time since World War II last year, expanding the gap between the United States and comparable countries.
The average lifespan for Americans in 2020 fell by a year and a half, and the drop was even worse for Black and Hispanic Americans: three years.
The drop was mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic, which the CDC said was responsible for almost 74% of the overall decline of life expectancy.
White Americans now have a life expectancy of 77 years, 7 months.
Black Americans’ average life expectancy is at 71 years, 10 months.
And more Americans died in 2020 than in any other year in history: over 3.3 million. Of those deaths, COVID-19 accounted for about 11%.
The last time that life expectancy dropped so dramatically for Black Americans was during the Great Depression of the mid-1930s.
Records for Hispanic life expectancy do not go as far back, buy they, too, show the largest drop in history.
Overall, life expectancy for all Americans peaked in 2019 at 78 years, 10 months.
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The decline, which was reported by provisional models last month, spotlights the country’s system of poor health, experts said.
“What happened in the U.S. did not occur in other comparable countries despite Covid-19 being a global pandemic,” said Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The CDC study found that the COVID crisis affected races differently: COVID was responsible for 90% of the Hispanic drop in life expectancy, 68% responsible for the drop among whites, and 59% responsible for the drop among Blacks.
Other than COVID, drug overdoses helped push the death toll higher, and life expectancy lower, especially for white Americans.
The particular impact the pandemic had on Hispanic and Black Americans “reflects the inequalities that were present before the pandemic that have to do with unequal access to health care and racial and ethnic disparities in health more generally, which largely have to do with socioeconomic disadvantages,” said Irma Elo, chair of the sociology department and a research associate at the Population Aging Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
“The people who have disproportionately suffered from this pandemic were the same people who were put in positions where they were more likely to be exposed because of their employment,” Elo said.
The report also emphasized the impact of the opioid epidemic.
The researchers estimated that an increase in deaths from accidents or unintentional injuries — one-third of which were drug overdoses — was responsible for 11 percent of the decline in life expectancy. Last week, the CDC reported an all-time high of over 93,000 overdose deaths in 2020, an increase of nearly 30 percent from 2019. Overdoses increased by about 4 percent from 2018 to 2019.
The study’s lead author, Elizabeth Arias, pointed out that homicides, which have seen dramatic increases over the last year, are a small but significant reason why Black Americans are dying younger.
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