US sees most significant drop in life expectancy since WWII

Atlanta, Georgia - US health officials reported that life expectancy in the country dropped by one year during the first half of 2020 due to the wave of deaths caused by the coronavirus.

2020 was the deadliest year in American history (stock image).
2020 was the deadliest year in American history (stock image).  © 123RF/Janece Flippo

Life expectancy is the length of time an average person is expected to live based on several demographic factors. In 2019, the average American had a life expectancy of 78.8. Between 2019 and the first half of 2020, that number decreased to 77.8 years.

The Associated Press reported that Robert Anderson, who oversees the mortality statistics for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said, "This is a huge decline. You have to go back to World War II, the 1940s, to find a decline like this."

According to the CDC, the sharpest declines were seen in the life expectancies for minorities. Experts like Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a health equity researcher and dean at the University of California, San Francisco, said, "Black and Hispanic communities throughout the United States have borne the brunt of this pandemic."

Black Americans' life expectancy dropped nearly three years (from 74.7 to 72.0), and Hispanics lost almost two years (81.1 to 79.9).

The coronavirus plays a major role in the overall drop

Experts expect the numbers will only get worse as more data comes in (stock image).
Experts expect the numbers will only get worse as more data comes in (stock image).  © 123RF/Trong Nguyen

CDC experts reported that deaths from the coronavirus are a huge part of this overall drop.

Other experts emphasized that the US's mismanagement of the pandemic has contributed to the overall increase in deaths, including from conditions like cancer, heart disease, and more. NPR noted there was also a "surge in drug overdose deaths" in the first half of 2020.

The report is based on provisional death counts from January to June 2020 and provisional death certificate data. Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo said, "What is really quite striking in these numbers is that they only reflect the first half of the year ... I would expect that these numbers would only get worse."

It’s already clear that 2020 was the most fatal year in US history: for the first time, there were more than three million deaths.

Cover photo: 123RF/Janece Flippo

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