COVID-19 Has Cut Average Life Expectancy in America

Tanya Simon
February 18, 2021

"This is a huge decline", said Robert Anderson, who oversees the data for the CDC. "You have to go back to World War II, the 1940s, to find a decline like this".

The devastating impact of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of the United States is reflected in a startling new statistic.

The NCHS cautions that its figures are based on provisional death counts in the first half of the year, so they won't capture the full effects of the pandemic and aren't adjusted for seasonal patterns that typically see more deaths in winter months than summer. Health officials expect the trend to worsen once numbers for the full year are available.

"Life expectancy at birth. may be underestimated since the populations more severely affected, Hispanic and non-Hispanic black populations, are more likely to live in urban areas", the report says. It had already been known that 2020 was the deadliest year in US history, with deaths topping 3 million for the first time.

The CDC calculates life expectancy based on how long a baby born today can expect to live, on average.

Last year was the deadliest year in American history, with total deaths surpassing 3 million for the first time. For women, life expectancy is 80.5 years after it fell by nearly a year. It's the largest gap in life expectancy between white and Black populations in the USA since 1998.

100 million Americans braced for more cold, ice and snow
Winter storm watches were in effect from Baltimore to Boston, and Texas braced for more icy rain and possibly more snow. Travel remains ill-advised in much of the nation, with highways treacherous and thousands of flights cancelled.

The life expectancy decline was less pronounced among non-Hispanic whites: males in that group had a decline of life expectancy of 0.8 year, while for white females the decline was 0.7 year.

Meanwhile the smallest decreases were among white men and women - of 0.8 years and 0.7 years respectively.

Experts say that ethnic minority communities have borne the brunt of the pandemic, as they are more likely to work in frontline low-wage jobs and endure crowded living conditions.

In 2020, 347,341 people in the USA died from COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. It fell by twice as much for Hispanic people, by 1.9 years.

Dr. Otis Brawley, a cancer specialist and public health professor at Johns Hopkins University, agreed. "And healthcare needs to be defined as prevention as well as treatment", he said. The data also hinges on the timely submission of death certificates, which may have been delayed due to pandemic-related logistical reasons, the report said.

Not enough use of masks, early reliance on drugs such as hydroxychloroquine, "which turned out to be worthless", and other missteps meant many Americans died needlessly, Brawley said.

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