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CDC: Life Expectancy Fell 1.5 Years during Pandemic

Life expectancy reaches lowest level since 2003; COVID-19 played the largest role

July 23, 2021

Life expectancy in the U.S. declined by a year and a half during 2020, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The decline was even more pronounced for Black and Hispanic Americans, who saw average life expectancy decline by about three years.

The overall average life expectancy in the U.S. declined from 78.8 years to 77.3 years from 2019 to 2020, representing the lowest level since 2003, the report notes. COVID-19 played the largest role in the decline, and drug overdose deaths also were a factor, the CDC report says.

“Among the causes contributing negatively to the change in life expectancy, COVID-19 contributed 90% for the Hispanic population, 67.9% for the non-Hispanic white population, and 59.3% for the non-Hispanic black population,” the report said.

The data comes from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and evaluates available death and birth data. Notable items in the report included:

  • Demographic disparities:  Hispanic men had the largest decline (3.7 years) in life expectancy from 2019 to 2020, followed by non-Hispanic black males (3.3 years), and non-Hispanic black females (2.4 years)
  • COVID-19 was the major factor:  The total decline in life expectancy was primarily due to increases in mortality due to COVID-19 (73.8% of the negative contribution), unintentional injuries (11.2%), homicide (3.1%), diabetes (2.5%), and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (2.3%)
  • Gender gap:  Women continue to live longer than men by about 5.7 years. Average life expectancy declined 1.8 years for men (74.5 years) and 1.2 years for women (80.2 years)

Increases in mortality from COVID-19, unintentional injuries, diabetes, homicide, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis outweighed the positive trends in mortality for cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, heart disease, suicide, and other conditions, the report notes.

“Increases in unintentional injury deaths in 2020 were largely driven by drug overdose deaths,” the report said.

HAP continues to support population health initiatives that promote health and wellness and is committed to tackling disparities that challenge our communities. Hospitals and health systems are dedicated to improve the health of their patients, their employees, and the communities they serve. Learn more about our population health initiatives.

The CDC report is available for review online.