The United States witnessed a staggering 3.3 million deaths in 2020, making it the highest in American history since the end of World War II, a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Life expectancy in the United States also saw a sharp plunge, plummeting by a year and a half in 2020.
Americans are now expected to live an average of 77.3 years, down from 78.8 years in 2019. The decline in life expectancy in 2020 was the sharpest since World War II when it fell by 2.9 years between 1942 and 1943.
Life expectancy is an estimate of the average number of years a baby born in a given year might expect to live. The number is of great significance, providing a window into the country’s health that can be affected by continual trends such as obesity as well as transient ones like pandemics, wars that might not threaten those newborns in their lifetimes.
Black and Hispanic Americans among worst affected by the fall in life expectancy: CDC report
The reduction in life expectancy for both Black Americans and Hispanic Americans was even worse: three years. For Hispanics, the life expectancy declined by three years from 81.8 years in 2019 to 78.8 years in 2020. Hispanic males suffered a drop of 3.7 years in 2020.
Black Americans suffered the second-largest decline in life expectancy with a decline of almost three years from 74.7 years in 2019 to 71.8 years in 2020, the lowest since 2000, the CDC report said. It also revealed the disproportionate impact the coronavirus outbreak had among the Black population. Covid was responsible for 59% of the drop in life expectancy among Black people.
The life expectancy for white Americans fell by 1.2 years in 2020 from 78.8 years in 2020 to 77.6 years, the lowest since 2002. Covid-19 was responsible for 68% of the drop among whites last year.
About 74 per cent of the overall life expectancy decline was attributed to the coronavirus outbreak that swept the country, killing people in its wake. “The decline in life expectancy between 2019 and 2020 can primarily be attributed to deaths from the pandemic,” the report reads. About 609,000 Americans lost their lives in the pandemic, including about 375,000 last year, the data released by CDC said.
Drug overdose deaths significantly contributed to the decline in life expectancy
According to US health officials, COVID-19 contributed to about 11 per cent of the total deaths reported in the United States in 2020. Besides coronavirus, 11 per cent of the decline was because of deaths from accidents or unintentional injuries. However, the major reason for the acute fall in life expectancy in the United States was due to deaths from a drug overdose. Close to one-third of the total fatalities reported last year were due to drug overdose deaths, which surged close to 30 per cent during the pandemic.
Other factors that contributed to the decline in life expectancy included homicides, which accounted for 3% of the decline, along with diabetes and chronic liver disease at 2.5% and 2.3%, respectively.