Average life expectancy for Americans hits two-decade low

The average life expectancy for Americans dropped again last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The expected life span of someone born in the US today is just 76.4 years.
The expected life span of someone born in the US today is just 76.4 years.  © 123rf/gcalin

The average life expectancy decreased by more than seven months in 2021, according to new data from the CDC, per NPR.

Now, the expected life span of someone born in America is 76.4 years.

That's the worst life expectancy average since 1996. It follows the whopping 1.8-year drop in 2020 due to the deaths caused by coronavirus.

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This week, the CDC released two reports showing that deaths from Covid-19 and drug overdoses were the primary drivers in the drop in life expectancy in 2021.

Analysts at the CDC had hoped that new Covid-19 vaccines would make 2021 a healthier year.

Coronavirus is the third leading cause of death for second consecutive year

Coronavirus was the third leading cause of death for the second consecutive year.
Coronavirus was the third leading cause of death for the second consecutive year.  © unsplash/ Fusion Medical Animation

The number of coronavirus deaths also surpassed that of 2020. The virus accounted for about 60% of the decline in life expectancy according to the data, and claimed some 417,000 lives.

Following heart disease and cancer, Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death for the second consecutive year.

Another major contributor to the decrease in the average life expectancy was drug overdose deaths, many stemming from synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Death by suicide and liver disease caused by alcohol also increased.

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CDC statistician Kenneth Kochanek said, "The majority of those deaths [drug overdose and suicide] are to younger people, and deaths to younger people affect the overall life expectancy more than deaths to the elderly," Kochanek says.

The new data showed that both men and women saw a similar decline in life expectancy last year, but that women, on average, are living six years longer than men.

Death rates for Hispanic and Black men decreased in 2021, even though they increased for almost every other group. The increase was most pronounced among white men and women, as well as American Indian or Alaska Native women.

Though Covid-19 is still taking lives, the initial data for 2022 shows deaths are on the decline.

Cover photo: 123rf/gcalin

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