The life expectancy of Americans fell by a year and a half in 2020, the biggest one-year decline since World War II, according to a new report.
Meanwhile, the expectancy for black and Hispanic Americans plunged by three years. Black life expectancy hasn’t dropped that much in one year since the Great Depression, The Associated Press reported.
“The drop spelled out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic, which health officials said is responsible for close to 74% of the overall life expectancy decline. More than 3.3 million Americans died last year, far more than any other year in U.S. history, with COVID-19 accounting for about 11% of those deaths,” the AP said.
It wasn’t just COVID-19 that bumped up the death rate. Drug overdoses amid the pandemic shoved expectancy down, especially among whites. Cities have also suffered skyrocketing homicide rates, especially among black Americans, said Elizabeth Arias, the report’s lead author.
“Other problems affected Black and Hispanic people, including lack of access to quality health care, more crowded living conditions, and a greater share of the population in lower-paying jobs that required them to keep working when the pandemic was at its worst, experts said.”
Other findings in the new CDC report, according to the AP:
- Hispanic Americans have longer life expectancy than white or Black Americans, but had the largest decline in 2020. The three-year drop was the largest since the CDC started tracking Hispanic life expectancy 15 years ago.
- Black life expectancy dropped nearly three years, to 71 years, 10 months. It has not been that low since 2000.
- White life expectancy fell by roughly 14 months to about 77 years, 7 months. That was the lowest the lowest life expectancy for that population since 2002.
- COVID-19′s role varied by race and ethnicity. The coronavirus was responsible for 90% of the decline in life expectancy among Hispanics, 68% among white people and 59% among Black Americans.
Said the CDC report:
Another consequence of the decreased life expectancy estimates observed during the first half of 2020 was a worsening of racial and ethnic mortality disparities. For example, the gap in life expectancy at birth between the non-Hispanic black and white populations increased by 46% between 2019 and the first half of 2020 (from 4.1 to 6.0 years).
Regardless of Hispanic origin, life expectancy for the black population has consistently been lower than that of the white population but the gap between the two races had generally been narrowing since 1993 when it was 7.1. The gap of 6.0 observed in the first half of 2020 is the largest since 1998. Conversely, the gap between the Hispanic and non-Hispanic white populations decreased by 37% between 2019 and the first half of 2020 (from 3.0 to 1.9 years). This indicates that the Hispanic population lost some of the mortality advantage it has evidenced since 2006 relative to the non-Hispanic white population, despite experiencing generally lower socioeconomic status.
The report also noted that the data “are based on deaths that occurred during the first 6 months of the year and do not reflect the entirety of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, or other changes in causes of death, such as the increases in provisional drug overdose deaths through early 2020.”
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