US Life Expectancy Drops by Almost Two Years: COVID Blamed

US Life Expectancy Drops by Almost Two Years: COVID Blamed large group of people cross street in manhattan (KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Wednesday, 22 December 2021 08:19 AM

Life expectancy in the United States has dropped by almost two years, mostly because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Data from the agency determined that the expectancy rate dropped from 78.8 years in 2019, when the pandemic began, to 77 years in 2020, which was the biggest drop since World War II, reports ABC News.

Dr. Robert Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at NCHS, said the decline is "staggering."

"I know 1.8 years doesn't seem like a whole lot, but on a population scale, that's a huge decline in life expectancy," said Anderson.

During World War II, life expectancy fell by almost three years, going to 63.3 years in 1943 from 66.2 years in 1942.

COVID-19 wasn't the only reason for the current decline, as other factors came into play that included increases in deaths because of diabetes, injuries, and drug overdoses.

Anderson said deaths from diabetes went over 100,000 for the first time, while accidental or unintentional injury deaths like overdoses went over 200,000.

COVID-19, however, was the biggest reason for the decline.

The report showed there were 3.38 million deaths in the United States in 2020 or about 530,000 more than in 2019. Of those deaths, more than 350,000 were attributed to COVID-19, which means 10.4% of all deaths in the United States in 2020 were because of the virus.

COVID-19 proved to be the third leading cause of death in 2020 and was responsible for 85 deaths per 100,000 people.

"It's the primary driver in the decline in life expectancy and the increase in mortality," said Anderson. "We're talking about 350,000 deaths. That accounts for the bulk of the increase in mortality."

The data also shows that men's life expectancy had a bigger decrease, going from 76.3 years in 2019 to 74.2 years in 2020. Women's life expectancy went from 81.4 years in 2019 to 79.9 in 2020.

Anderson said the report reveals the first time a new disease has entered the nation's top 10 causes of death so quickly, and that the only thing similar was the first days of the HIV epidemic.

However, he said HIV never got to be higher than the eighth-leading cause of death, and it took a few years after the virus was identified for it to be in the top 10 causes.