Wednesday, February 24, 2021

U.S. life expectancy fell by a year during first half of 2020

"Life expectancy in the United States fell by a full year during the first half of 2020, a staggering decline that reflects the toll of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as a rise in deaths from drug overdoses, heart attacks and diseases that accompanied the outbreak, according to government data released Thursday," Lenny Bernstein reports for The Washington Post. The provisional data was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

Though white Americans overall fared better than Black or Hispanic Americans, rural areas (which have a higher share of white residents) tended to have a higher death rate. "Overall, the NCHS data shows, life expectancy at birth for the entire U.S. population in the first half of 2020 was 77.8 years," Bernstein reports. "For Black Americans, it was 72, for Latinos 79.9, and for whites 78. As has long been the case, women could expect to live longer — 80.5 years, compared with 75.1 for men. The NCHS did not include figures for Asian Americans or other racial groups."

While the data wasn't unexpected, the size of the reduction in life expectancy was more than expected. Elizabeth Arias, lead author of the paper, told the Post that the drop was a "big departure. We haven’t seen anything this large since the first half of the 20th century, when infectious disease was much more common." Since the data comes from the first six months of 2020, when the virus was hitting urban areas harder, Arias said data from the rest of 2020 will likely show a greater proportion of white deaths.

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