New York Daily News

Pandemic cuts U.S. life expectancy

- BY JESSICA SCHLADEBEC­K

Coronaviru­s deaths drove down the average life expectancy in the U.S. by 1.5 years in 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

Americans are now expected to live about 77.3 years, a significan­t drop from 78.8 years in 2019, according the report by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. It marked the largest decrease in a single year since World War II, when life expectancy plunged 2.9 years between 1942 and 1943 as young soldiers died in combat.

The 2020 decline — which set back U.S. life expectancy to its level in 2003 — is “basically catastroph­ic,” said Mark Hayward, a University of Texas sociology professor who studies changes in U.S. mortality.

Some experts it will take years for U.S. life expectancy levels to recover.

The recent drop was fueled predominan­tly by COVID-19, which has killed more than 609,000 Americans. The fast-spreading disease accounted for about 75% of the decrease. Drug overdose deaths — which climbed 30% during the pandemic — were also a significan­t factor, the CDC said.

The government says more than 93,000 people died of overdoses in 2020 — the highest number ever counted in a single year, and enough to make up about a third of deaths caused by unintentio­nal injury.

In total, unintentio­nal injuries — which also include falls and motor vehicle accidents — were responsibl­e for about 11% of the life expectancy decrease, the data show.

Other causes of death contributi­ng to the decline include spikes in homicide and deaths from diabetes and chronic liver disease, according to the report.

African-Americans saw a steeper than average 2.9 year drop in life expectancy, from 74.7 years in 2019 to 71.8 years in 2020.

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