COVID-19 deaths push drop in life expectancy

U.S. life expectancy fell by 1 1/2 years in 2020, largely driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The drop in life expectancy at birth, from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.3 years in 2020, was in part caused by the increase in mortality from the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC noted. The data found that the coronavirus was responsible for 73.8 percent of the overall decline in life expectancy.

Approximately 3.3 million Americans died in 2020, according to the CDC, 375,000 of whom died as a result of COVID-19. Drug overdoses and an increase in homicides also played a role in U.S. life expectancy falling.

The decline would have been even greater were it not for the offsetting effects of decreases in mortality due to cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, heart disease, and suicide.

Disparities: Hispanic Americans have longer life expectancy than white or Black Americans, but had the largest decline in 2020. The drop in life expectancy was larger among Black Americans and Hispanic Americans, who saw decreases of 2.9 years and 3 years, respectively. COVID-19 was responsible for 90 percent of the decline in life expectancy among Hispanics, 68 percent among white people, and 59 among Black Americans.

The reduction in life expectancy for Black Americans was the largest one-year drop seen since the mid-1930s, amid the Great Depression, according to The Associated Press. The CDC has not monitored Hispanic Americans’ life expectancy as long, but the one-year drop recorded in 2020 was reportedly the largest ever seen.