COVID-19 Has Cut Average Life Expectancy in America

Ross Houston
February 18, 2021

In the US, more than 488,000 people have died from COVID-19.

"You have to go back to World War Two, the 1940s, to find a decline like this", Dr Anderson said.

Although the mortality data used in the report includes more than 99% of the deaths that occurred during that period, the report noted that the estimates "do not reflect the entirety of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020".

"It was disturbing to see that gains that have been made for the Black community and decreasing the gap between life expectancy for African Americans and (white) Americans over the past six years had come to a halt", said Dr. Leon McDougle, president of the National Medical Association.


Women tend to live longer than men, and in the first half of 2020, that margin grew: the difference in their life expectancy widened to 5.4 years, from 5.1 in 2019. The CDC indicates, based on the latest numbers, USA residents can now expect to live as long as they did in 2006.

Non-Hispanic Black males experienced the highest decline in life expectancy - three years - of any race and sex subgroup in the new analysis, followed by Hispanic males (2.4 years), non-Hispanic Black females (2.3 years), and Hispanic females (1.1 years).

As a group, Latinos in the USA have had the most longevity and still do.

Among races in the USA, life expectancy decreased the most for the black population while the white population saw the lowest decline. 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.


For men, life expectancy declined by 1.2 years to 75.1 years in the first half of 2020, from 76.3 years in 2019. Included in those statistics are an uptick in fatal strokes and heart attacks and a record number of drug overdose deaths, 81,000 from May 2019 to May 2020.

The provisional estimates were calculated by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics using death records in the US from January through June 2020.

In addition, an October 2020 study from Virginia Commonwealth and Yale universities found that almost 75,000 deaths were indirectly caused by the pandemic. "And healthcare needs to be defined as prevention as well as treatment", he said.

As of January 6, 2021, that total was 20,507,518 years across the 81 countries, study authors say (with the caveat that estimates may be over or under, due to the difficulty of accurately recording COVID-19-related deaths).


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