The coronavirus pandemic was largely responsible for shaving a year and a half from the life expectancy of Americans in 2020, the steepest drop in the United States since World War II, according to federal statistics released on Wednesday.
By Julie Bosman, Sophie Kasakove and Daniel Victor / The New York Times
An American child born today, if they hypothetically lived their entire life under the conditions of 2020, would be expected to live 77.3 years, down from 78.8 in 2019. It’s the lowest life expectancy since 2003, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the agency that released the figures and a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The difficult year also deepened racial and ethnic disparities in life expectancy, with Black and Hispanic Americans losing nearly two more years than white Americans. Life expectancy for Hispanic Americans dropped to 78.8 from 81.8, while the numbers for Black Americans dropped to 71.8 from 74.7. Non-Hispanic white Americans saw their life expectancy drop to 77.6 from 78.8.
The statistics further quantified the staggering toll of the pandemic, which has killed more than 600,000 Americans as it has, at times, pushed the health system to its limits.
Measuring life expectancy is not intended to precisely predict actual life spans; rather, it’s a measure of a population’s health, revealing either society-wide distress or advancement. The sheer magnitude of the drop in 2020 has left researchers reeling as it wiped away decades of progress.
In recent decades, life expectancy had steadily risen in the United States until 2014, when an opioid epidemic took hold and caused the kind of decline rarely seen in developed countries. The decline had flattened in 2018 and 2019.
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