COVID-19 pandemic greatly contributed to a year-and-a-half decrease in life expectancy, new CDC report finds

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COVID-19 pandemic greatly contributed to a year-and-a-half decrease in life expectancy, new CDC report finds
Dr. Joseph Varon hugs and comforts a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) during Thanksgiving at the United Memorial Medical Center on November 26, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Go Nakamura/Getty Images
  • Life expectancy in the US fell from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.3 years in 2020, the CDC estimated.
  • The agency attributed 75% of the decline to COVID-19 deaths.
  • Hispanic Americans saw the most drastic decline in life expectancy compared with other ethnicities.

Life expectancy in the US fell by a year and a half in 2020, mostly a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics estimated in a new report.

In 2019, life expectancy was 78.8 years, but in 2020 it was 77.3 years, its lowest since 2003.

The report attributed the drop in life expectancy mainly to COVID-19, with coronavirus deaths blamed for 73.8% of the decline.

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Men had a life expectancy of 74.5 years in 2020 compared with 76.3 in 2019. For women, life expectancy in 2020 was 80.2, down from 81.4 in 2019.

"The difference in life expectancy between the sexes was 5.7 years in 2020, increasing from 5.1 in 2019," the report said.

More than 600,000 deaths from the virus have been recorded in the US, nearly two-thirds in 2020, CDC data shows.

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Hispanic Americans had the most drastic drop in life expectancy of any ethnicity, decreasing from 81.8 years in 2019 to 78.8 years in 2020, a three-year drop. For Hispanic men, that drop was from 79.0 years in 2019 to 75.3 years in 2020, a drop of 3.7 years. Black men had a decline of 3.3 years, and non-Hispanic Black women had a decline of 2.4 years.

"Among the causes contributing negatively to the change in life expectancy, COVID-19 contributed 90% for the Hispanic population, 67.9% for the non-Hispanic white population, and 59.3% for the non-Hispanic black population," the report said.

Hispanic and Black Americans have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, with several studies and reports finding that Black and Hispanic Americans have a higher risk of getting sick and dying from the coronavirus.

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Other causes in the decline included unintentional injuries, homicide, diabetes, and chronic liver disease.

The report was based on provisional data from 2020 death and birth records, which means some deaths and births that weren't counted or recorded are not included.

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