COVID-19 pandemic reduced life expectancy for Americans

Life expectancy in America had already shown signs of stalling out in the years before the coronavirus

The average US life expectancy dropped by a year in the first half of 2020, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics, a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The decline was particularly steep among ethnic minorities, with the life expectancy of Black Americans dropping almost three years, from 74.7 to 72 and that of Hispanic Americans 81.8 to 79.9.

But analysts say the latest CDC figures reflected only the first wave of Covid deaths, including deaths from other causes which the pandemic has affected.

The current life expectancy remains lower than the peak United States life expectancy of 78.9 years, from 2014, and is shorter than the average of 80 years in the OECD, an organisation of mostly-rich countries.

Life expectancy at birth for the total USA population declined from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.8 years for January through June 2020.

"Another effect of the decreased life expectancy estimates observed during the first half of 2020 was a worsening of racial and ethnic mortality disparities", the report noted.

The CDC says the nation has not seen such a big decline since World War II. The CDC indicates, based on the latest numbers, US residents can now expect to live as long as they did in 2006. Life expectancy changes dramatically by gender and race, according to health data.


The report estimated life expectancy in the USA based on provisional death counts for January to June 2020.

"Life expectancy has mostly been increasing from year to year", said Arias.

The pandemic has hit minority communities in the United States especially hard.

As a group, Latinos in the USA have had the most longevity and still do. Hispanics saw their "advantage" in this regard compared to Black Americans increase from 7.1 years in 2019 to 7.9. years in the first six months of 2020, the report said.

The gap between Hispanic and white non-Hispanic individuals narrowed, however, from three years in 2019 to 1.9 in 2020. But it's not the only one: a surge in drug overdose deaths are a part of the decline, too.

"The continued spread of variants that are more transmissible could jeopardize the progress we have made in the last month if we let our guard down", Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing. 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.

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