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Overdoses, COVID-19 Lower U.S. Life Expectancy

December 22, 2022

COVID-19 and drug overdose deaths led U.S. life expectancy to decline to its lowest point in two decades, according to a new CDC report.

The average lifespan in the U.S. fell to 76.4 years during 2021, a decrease of more than half a year from 2020. The National Center for Health Statistics report marks the continuation of a discouraging trend in U.S. health, as life expectancy fell 1.8 years during 2020.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Top causes of death:  Heart disease, cancer, and COVID-19 remained the top causes of death during 2021. 
  • By gender:  For men, the average life expectancy declined to 73.5, a 0.7-year decline from 2020. For women, the average life expectancy dropped to 79.3 years from 79.9.
  • COVID-19:  COVID-19 was the underlying cause for nearly 417,000 deaths last year, an 18.8 percent increase.
  • Drug overdose deaths:  There were nearly 107,000 drug overdose deaths during 2021.
    • Deaths due to synthetic opioids other than methadone increased 22 percent. The rate of deaths involving heroin declined 32 percent.
  • Notable:  Death rates for most groups increased during 2021, except for Hispanic men (-2.1%) and non-Hispanic Black men (-1.8%).

HAP continues to support population health initiatives that promote the health and wellness of our communities. Learn more about our population health initiatives.

The report from the CDC is available to review online.