coronavirus pandemic

US Life Expectancy Decreased by ‘Alarming' Amount During Pandemic

Health in the U.S. has been lagging behind comparable countries for decades

Ivan Pierre Aguirre | Reuters

Average life expectancy in the United States plummeted in 2020, widening the life expectancy gap between the U.S. and other high-income countries. The decline was particularly sharp among Hispanic and Black Americans, a new study found.

Health experts anticipated life expectancy would drop during the pandemic, but how much it did came as a surprise.

“I naively thought the pandemic would not make a big difference in the gap because my thinking was that it’s a global pandemic, so every country is going to take a hit,” said Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, who led the new study. “What I didn’t anticipate was how badly the U.S. would handle the pandemic.”

The new study used data from the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Human Mortality Database to measure changes in life expectancy between 2018 and 2020 among Black, white and Hispanic Americans. The available data did not allow the researchers to include Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian and Alaska Native populations in the comparison. The results were published Wednesday in The BMJ.

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