U.S. Life Expectancy Falls amid Pandemic in Biggest Drop Since WWII

People line up for vaccines amid the coronavirus pandemic in Bronx, N.Y., February 5, 2021. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

U.S. life expectancy fell by one year on average during the first half of 2020, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Average life expectancy dropped from 78.8 years to 77.8 years after the coronavirus pandemic arrived in the U.S. The reduction in life expectancy is the most significant drop since World War II, when life expectancy fell 2.9 years between 1942 and 1943. The drop was higher among minorities, with life expectancy for African Americans falling by 2.7 years, and by 1.9 years for Hispanics.

“What is really quite striking in these numbers is that they only reflect the first half of the year,” Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an epidemiologist and dean at the University of California, told Politico. “I would expect that these numbers would only get worse.”

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The report marks the first time the CDC has released data on life expectancy from early records, and more death certificates and other data may be received.

Over 490,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Additionally, Elizabeth Arias, a co-author of the CDC report, said that drug overdose deaths also contributed to the higher death toll in 2020.

U.S. life expectancy rose in 2018 and 2019, after a mid-decade dip stemming from drug overdoses during the opioid crisis. However, once the CDC releases full data from all of 2020, life expectancy could drop even further.

“We’ve had a lot of deaths added since August, so I think a drop of two to three years for 2020 isn’t out of the question,” Robert Anderson, head of the mortality statistics branch of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, told The Wall Street Journal in December.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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